A friend and I were talking about an adventurous trip we’re both considering. We both had some reservations about it and we were discussing the pros and cons.
“I don’t want to count on it until I’m sure that I’m going,” he said. “I don’t want to get my hopes up and then get disappointed.”
“Why not?” I asked.
He couldn’t give me a reason.
The next day we spoke again. “I changed my mind about not wanting to get my hopes up,” he said. “Your question made me realize that I’m on fire about this. It would mean so much to me to do this. I want to be excited about it. I am excited about it.
“I realize that growing up, my enthusiasm was often dampened. My parents really meant well, but they always disregarded my excitement. I think they wanted to protect me from hurt, so I’d say the glass was half-full and they’d warn me it was half-empty.
“I’m ready to reclaim my natural joy towards life.”
It was a beautiful moment, and from there, the rest of our conversation was filled with our excitement about the amazing possibilities that could unfold if we took the trip, as well as some honest reflection about our hesitations.
But we don’t always realize what my friend did, do we? We often keep ourselves from getting our hopes up and stop there. We stop short of getting excited about possible new adventures, opportunities, or good news. Whether we’re contemplating taking a trip, getting a promotion, or finding our dream home, we so often temper it with, “I don’t want to get my hopes up.”
This robs us of the joy that’s available in the anticipation, deliberations, and decision-making.
That joy and excitement is like rocket fuel, and propels us with the energy, focus, and drive to take the steps we need to move forward. It enhances our motivation and performance. And it feels great, too.
We do the same thing when bad news is on the horizon. When waiting for results from a medical test, for example, how often we prepare ourselves for the worst, not wanting to get our hopes up. And then we wait in dread and terror.
I challenge you to ask yourself why–why shouldn’t you get your hopes up? Can you find a single valid reason to dampen your enthusiasm, optimism, or joy?
We think that we’ll be better prepared by not getting our hopes up. We fear that it will hurt worse later if we’re optimistic and then don’t’ get what we want.
But the truth is this: disappointment now does not prepare us for disappointment later. It doesn’t protect us from hurt later, either. It only generates negative feelings right now. If bad news comes, we’ll still feel crappy later.
I once told a client that she might as well go slam her hand in a car door right now, just in case she might slam her hand in the door next month.
Because that’s exactly what we do when we don’t let ourselves get our hopes up, isn’t it? We generate pain and negativity right now when the event we dread may never happen.
Disappointment about what might happen feels heavy right now. And it’s totally useless. If we get what we want, we’ve felt terrible unnecessarily, and if we don’t get what we want, we’ve felt terrible leading up to the bad news.
And in doing so, we deny ourselves moments, days, weeks, lifetimes of excitement and enthusiasm. We rob ourselves of the very stuff that energizes us and propels us towards rich and fulfilled lives.
So how about it? What joy or enthusiasm are you holding back from? What bad news are you suffering about before you get it? What possibility are you failing to celebrate?
Then, ask yourself why. Why not get your hopes up? Why not imagine yourself in the situation you dream of? Why not imagine the best possible outcome?
The only thing you’ve got to lose is today’s pessimism, anxiety, and pain. If you don’t believe me, you can always try the car door test.