by James Hale, author of “Getting Seen”
You thought “hope” and “optimism” were the same? Just smile. They are not!
Oh, yes, they do have definite similarities, and in casual usage they are thought of as synonyms. After all, both hope and optimism are considered powerful emotions based on belief. Both anticipate a positive outcome for a situation. Both feed a desire for the future. But the similarity stops there.
Hope is passive; optimism is active. According to Dr. Emmett Miller, hope has an element of desire—we hope for things we want to happen and what we hope for is usually possible. (I hope Johnny gets the job.) Optimism has more of an element of confidence—we believe good will come from the situation, we believe good with triumph over evil in the end, or that our innate strengths will carry us through. (I know things will be okay even if Johnny doesn’t get this job.)
Optimism knows that things will be okay regardless of the outcome. If “hope” and “faith” had a baby, it would be named “optimism.”
Like gasoline fuels a car, optimism fuels our ability to solve problems and find creative solutions to life’s puzzles.
So how does this affect your job search? Hope has a trap. That trap is passivity. People who misuse hope feel they have no personal control over a situation. People who draw energy from hoping for success often fail to take complete action because they rely instead on simply wishing for the best. They trust that hope will fill in the voids from their limited efforts. They sometimes then simply accept their lot in life and do not take action to help themselves … even when they could.
Optimism is very different. The strength of optimism is that not only does it keep us moving toward the things we desire, it also enables us to let go of the situation if our desired outcome is not realized. Without this motion toward a positive outcome and the ability to let go when reality falls short of our dreams, we tend towards depression, despair, apathy, and helplessness. We give up.
But there is more. Like gasoline fuels a car, optimism fuels our ability to solve problems and find creative solutions to life’s puzzles. When your career path gets steep and rough—when you have those extended periods when no one returns your calls or responds to your resume—optimism helps you see the footholds and the shortcuts. If you cultivate optimism in a way that keeps you in action and keeps you focused on what you can do to influence the outcomes you desire, success will be achieved.
When something bad happens to you, like a layoff or struggles in the job search, it will always do one of three things to you:
- It will define you, so that you identify yourself by the condition (I am unemployed).
- It will destroy you (by creating bad habits like isolating yourself from those closest to you)
- It will feed you power and strengthen you.
People who are naturally optimistic are masters of the latter. If you are not naturally optimistic, here is a checklist on optimism from Optimist International. See where you are succeeding and where you might improve:
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.