‘Remember: Hope is not a strategy!’
The first time I came across this statement I was filling in a form at work, justifying a procurement method (such fun!). It was fair enough in the context, given the amount of investment involved; hoping that it turned out to save money certainly wouldn’t be enough to make that happen.
For some reason it stuck in my head. There was something true but sort of depressing about it, I felt. It illustrated the difference between what counts as strategy in the world of business, and what we more broadly refer to as strategic in everyday life.
The depressing part comes in the implication that there is no point in hoping. If strategy is what works, and hope is ineffectual, then it’s a waste of energy. It might even obscure the reality: if we hope everything will be okay, will we still do all we can do actually make it so? It has even been pointed out recently that depressed people, i.e. those who are not hopeful, have a more realistic view of the world. This may be useful from the point of view of making rational choices, but it’s not much fun.
Arguing from the premise that ‘hope is not a strategy’ to the conclusion that ‘hope should be jettisoned’ is obviously fallacious. Hope may not make a better outcome more likely in the way acting on a decent strategy might, but it performs other very important functions for human beings. It engenders positivity; it makes us carry on; it gives us a bit more strength even if we are facing grim odds.
And that’s the funny thing about hope. It isn’t logical or rational in the classical sense. How many times have we heard someone say, ‘I never gave up hope,’ when they have emerged from a situation that looked utterly doomed, even to them? Maintaining hope in these kinds of situations may require some self-deception, some chosen delusion, which in itself looks irrational. But in fact, choosing to delude yourself and remain hopeful seems like a very good strategy for a human being.
So, the statement ‘hope is a strategy’ makes some sense, too. It may not be acceptable in the context of justifying a money-saving procurement method to a business strategy unit, but as a strategy for staying happy as a human being it has pretty reliable precedents. There are lots of good reasons to make yourself hopeful, even when the odds seem to be against you.
We are told, by some popular psychology pundits, that we can choose to be happy rather than waiting for it to happen to us. This can seem like a tall order. Choosing hope, on the other hand, feels easier, a smaller step; but it is a strategic one that can lead to being happier, even when things don’t work out the way we hoped.
I’m off out now to collect my latest set of Diana photos from the developers. I know, deep down, that half of them will be rubbish, but I am filled with hope that they will be good all the same. This part is almost as enjoyable as finding the one or two prints I love.