Hoping for outcomes that are almost unfeasible is misleading—for example, hoping that you’ll win the lottery or that the victims of some deadly accident have somehow survived.
There is something about giving up hope and accepting the reality that is comforting
Research has suggested that letting go of hope can often set you free. For example, folks who hope for a miraculous therapy for a terminal disease are less happy than those who accept the hopelessness of the situation.
The life of the Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl is particularly illustrative of the difference between false and realistic hope. When confronted by the reality of the Auschwitz and Kaufering concentration camps, Frankl did not wish to dig his way out of his prison. Instead, he acknowledged the bleak reality of the concentration camps, and hoped vaguely for something feasible and sensible—that the war could end and he may be set free. Frankl, who later established logotherapy, famously helped his fellow prisoners bear the horror around them by urging them to contemplate the lives they may lead after the war.
False Hope is Delusional, Realistic Hope is Worthwhile
Yes, hope can be life-affirming. It can give you the impetus to keep on in the face of struggle and disappointment. Hope—underpinned by hard work—is what made many a great achievement possible, from inventing life-changing drugs to dismantling racial segregation.
But false hope is deadly. It can shackle you to an outcome you long for but cannot achieve.
False hopes lead to disappointment. If you hope to become an eminent actor or a great chess player, your expectations are bound to be dashed. It’s much better to hope that you’ll enjoy acting or playing basketball and acknowledge the inadequacies you can’t overcome.
False hope locks you into a concept—of people, situation, job, culture—that has little bearing on the reality. False hope will bind you to the idea of what could be, instead of what is.
Idea for Impact: Sometimes you should stop believing. Giving up hope and embracing reality can set you free. False hope is futile.