Today there are many comments and articles related to either the Inauguration or to Martin Luther King, Jr. Individually or together, these topics are highly appropriate given the day. However, I would like to take a deeper look at the word underlying both – hope. It is an amazing word, immediately conjuring emotions of optimism and positivity. Merriam-Webster has several definitions for hope:
1. To cherish a desire with anticipation
1. To desire with expectation of obtainment
2. To expect with confidence
What an amazing word. I like the intransitive verb because it uses the word cherish. This is not a word we use often today. To cherish something (or someone) is above and beyond liking it/them. The object to be cherished should be honored and loved. For someone to “cherish a desire with anticipation”, the idea rings with emotion; feeling love toward a wanted thing or person coupled with anticipation – that ever tantalizing potential for the future. Similarly, the transitive verb of the word hope references desire but explicitly states “with expectation of obtainment”. Instead of anticipation, there is now expectation.
The problem with hope is precisely that anticipation and expectation. Part of the thrill of hope is that the desire may actually come to pass. What if it doesn’t? Many times in our lives we hope for things or events to turn out a certain way. Think about how powerful that feeling of hope can be as a motivator. In some ways, if we have hope, we can drive ourselves or the situation right to the anticipated result. However, the deflation that occurs when hope fades or the anticipated result does not happen can be terrible. Not only do we feel sorrow for the loss of what could have been; sometimes we feel betrayed or hurt if someone else raised our hopes and did not live up to the promise. Unfortunately, dashed hopes can severely effect our trust in others or even in ourselves.
I love the word and the feeling of hope. It lifts us up with visions of perfection and idealism. As leaders, though, we have to help maintain the balance of hope and realism. I submit that false hope raised by a bad leader can be more detrimental to a team than a good leader who balances expectations with truth but may fall short of the goal line. We need hope in our lives to continue the search for the best in everyone and every situation. I also think we need to keep truth in focus to achieve the best balance for decision-making.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man
CEO, The Professional Development Team