Monday, April 9, 2012

Reality Check

There are plenty of cynics in the world.

I, personally, think cynicism is void of merit, to be completely honest. But, sometimes, the inclination can be to go to the other extreme. To be insanely optimistic, or to gain false hopes about things that aren't reality.

Hope, in the best sense of the term, can give people a purpose, and drive. It can cause humans to act altruistically, and to do incredible things. It can breed perseverance, ultimately leading to success.

Hope, in the negative sense of the term (call it what you will: "false hope", unrealistic expectations, etc.) can bring us to a place of utter disappointment, and the crash can be even more devastating than a cynic's disappointment. Why? Because you've brought yourself incredibly high, and it didn't turn out the way you wanted.

So, why or when does this happen?

Hope can be based in several things, but often it breaks down to two categories:

1) Hope based out of knowledge
2) Hope based out of feeling

The second one isn't always bad, but it can be consuming, if we let it. The problem with basing your hope solely on feelings, is that feelings are fickle things. They can lead us one direction one moment, then pull a 180 the next.

For instance, I can hope with all my might that the $20 bill I dropped in Starbucks will still be there when I come back two days later. Despite the knowledge I have that people generally don't turn in cash when they find it. I can choose to disregard and place my hope in the feeling that it should still be there upon my return.

That's basing hope in feelings.

Now, say you lost your credit or debit card. Something with your name on it. Again, you would have to hope that someone would turn it in. The difference here, is that people are more inclined to turn something like a lost wallet, or debit card in. Not all the time, mind you, people still steal wallets they've found, and what not. That's why it's still a hope. But that hope is based in a more realistic view of how the world works.

That hope can be grounded, and complimented by a dose of realism.

What the source of your "feelings based hope"?

For me, it's people.

I'll meet a person, and become insanely interested in their life. Odds are, if you're my friend, I find you interesting. Congratulations.

Then, my mind will start to piece together an image of them, a caricature. The things that I find virtuous, noble, and compelling about that individual. These are all very real things. But, the problem comes when I place all my hope in the idea that this individual will stay exactly as I've pictured them in my mind to be.

See the difficulty?

Me too. People change. People have off days. So when I've placed all my hope in them acting one way, when it doesn't happen that particular way, it can lead to disappointment, and disillusionment.

We see this happen all the time in relationships. Someone will fall for someone else. That someone else may, or may not, realize this is the case.

Person 1 will start generating all these expectations about how life is going to pan out between the two of them. They may even jump past friendship, and right into romantic thought life. While they're spending so much time in "romance mode" they're completely missing out on the friendship to be had, and when their romantic expectations don't come to fruition, it can be a bitter taste in one's mouth.

I'm guilty of this. I've been Person 1, one too many times.

I've gotten way ahead of myself in friendships, hoping for more, without grounding myself in the least. It's always turned out poorly, as far as I can remember, and the friendship is never the same afterward.

It sucks.

It's important for romantics and dreamers alike to remember to ground themselves with a dose of realism sometimes.

Realism is different than cynicism.

Cynicism says "I can't."
Realism says "This isn't attainable right now, but what can I do to make this attainable?"

Sometimes you'll find that you can't make something attainable, but sometimes that simple question will put you on a path to achieving that which was previously a dream. All dreamers had to quit dreaming, and start doing at some point. Yes, they pursued their dream, their hope, but they also complimented that hope with realism.

It's like someone who dreams to fly a fighter jet. They can really, really, really desire it. It can really, truly be the ultimate longing of their heart, but if this person doesn't get a pilot's license it soon won't matter if they believe they were born to fly. They'll likely crash and burn.

But a person who dreams to fly, but understands that there are certain channels that they have to swim before that dream is fully realized, may take a little longer to get there, but they can leave the ground with confidence that they won't fall from the sky...

Sometimes we need to get our heads out of the clouds, because when you fly too long in the clouds, it can be quite difficult to see what's ahead, and around you. Being grounded isn't bad. It can help you appreciate taking flight all the more, when the time is right.

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