Hope is Not a Plan

I’m going to go out on a limb here and share that I loved ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi.’ I thought it was fun and engaging, funny and more than a bit swashbuckling. I know there are plenty of people out there who disagree with me, which is fine, but there’s one theme in the film I wanted to write about today: hope.

Bucking the trend of the second-film in a trilogy being the bummer (‘Empire Strikes Back’ didn’t exactly finish on a high note), The Last Jedi ends on a very hopeful tone. The now-infamous “broom kid” looks to the stars and Rian Johnson leaves viewers hopeful for the rebellion. It’s a nice ending, a nice sentiment.

After a year that left a lot of people worn down – either because of their politics or the fact that Mother Nature seems bound and determined to destroy our civilization – hope seems to be trading on the demand side of the supply/demand curve. We want to be hopeful. It’s important. Especially at this time of the year, hope runs high for many of us and I’m certainly no exception.

I’m a person who runs hot and cold on hope. I’m prone to sleep-deprived and frustration-fueled despair. I get down. I get grouchy. I get irritable and irascible. Who doesn’t? In those times, when the work seems endless and the frustrations insurmountable, I try to focus on hope – hope for the future, hope for success, hope for change – and it changes my mentality a little bit. It’s like pressing pause on a downward spiral and it gives me the chance to reframe and rethink what has me on edge.

But that’s about all it does. Hope, in and of itself, has almost no value. Left unchecked, hope can not only be unproductive, but destructive. It can make you desperate and, if it goes on long enough, can be like pouring gas on the fire of despair. Because hope is a postcard, a picture of a future version of yourself or the world, but without action, it becomes a picture of a life unfulfilled.

Hope needs action to become a reality, otherwise its just a wish without a genie. To have hope is a great thing, but to act on it is better. No, not just better, it is crucial. That kid with the broom needs to look at the stars and imagine a life different from the one he’s living in the stables, but if he’s not willing to do anything about it, he’ll never get anywhere.

The same is also true of action. Taking action in your every day life is great, but without a vision of what that action is building towards, it becomes activity without purpose, a solution without a problem.

Hope and action are the Why and What of the three-question manifesto I wrote about earlier this year. Once you decide who you want to be, you have to decide what you want to do and why you want to do it.

Everyone who has ever taken on a challenge or tried in any way to better themselves or their community has hope. But only those who can effectively pair aspiration with action get things done. It’s great to envision a different life, career, relationship or community and even better to identify and take steps to make it happen.

It seems so simple. It is so simple, on paper or in a blog post, but the challenge in bringing hope to life through action are the unknowns, the potential ramifications or costs of doing something different. Change always has a cost. The question is: does the potential benefit outweigh those costs?

I would argue that, if your motives are true and vision clear, if the hope you hold is truly beneficial and the steps are focused, the answer will always be yes. But it takes a brave soul to find out. Bravery can come from being willing to accept the known risks or costs and proceed anyway or from simply not knowing any better. Both of which are viable options.

The broom kid has no idea how costly and painful it will be to get out of that stable. But Rey certainly does, as does Poe. They know how hard it will be to overthrow the First Order and they are going to try anyway, because their bravery comes from their hope and their action inspires their belief.

I know a lot of people are hopeful right now. They are hopeful about the people they want to be and how their lives will change if they can become those people. My hope is that they – or you – don’t simply stare at the stars and wish, but that you find courage in your convictions to take actions every day to get you to where you want to be.

Because the past may be written in ink, but the future is written in pencil and the only way you’ll ever be able to read it is if you have the courage to write.

Thanks.

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