Want to Be Happy? Give Up Hope.

If you want to know how to be miserable, I can give you an excellent recipe: Hope for something. That’s right, I said it. A licensed professional counselor is telling you that if you want to be happy, you’re going to need to let go of hope. And I mean, really let it go.

Let go of hoping for a brighter tomorrow. Let go of hoping for your ship to come in, let go of hoping for a better relationship. Let go of hoping that one day, you’ll be happy. I’m actually recommending that you stop hoping entirely. I want you to be utterly hopeless.

If this triggers you, good! I used to be really attached to hope, too! Why would I recommend something that seems so reckless? Indulge me for a moment, if you will. If you can really get this, I promise you it will change your perspective on life in a positive way.

Let’s take a close look at the word “hope”. Merriam-Webster defines hope as: to cherish a desire with anticipation; the chance that something good will happen. If you look into the origin of the word, you’ll find that it probably came from the German word “hop”, which means “leaping with expectation.” So what’s wrong with that? Isn’t it a good thing to think something good will happen? Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to be leaping with expectation? Well, on the surface, yes! Dig deeper, and it’s not such a good idea.

The problem with hope is that it cannot exist in the present. Hope, by its very definition, creates a conversation that only exists “someday”. I searched my entire calendar, and I cannot find a single day called “someday”. Someday never comes! When we use the hope, we’re actually creating a false reality that will never arrive. Someday is a resident of Maybeville who vacations in Neverever.

Now, before I start getting all kinds of hate mail from counselors and therapists in Denver and perhaps the World, let me be clear: I am not recommending that hope be replaced with despair. Neither are productive, and both exist in fantasyland. Losing hope lets go of how things ought to be. It disposes of the notion that we must have one thing in order to be happy. When we allow ourselves to let go of our attachment to hope, we actually create space for things to unfold exactly as they are. To paraphrase Byron Katie, when we lose hope, we allow ourselves to “love what is.”

Letting go of hope doesn’t mean letting go of possibility. It doesn’t mean that we stop taking steps toward a goal that we want or a future we imagine. When we truly give up hope, we are ridding ourselves of the judgment of how things should have gone and how they should go. Losing hope actually means granting space for things and people to show up exactly how they are; without expectation, without any shoulds or ought-to’s. Indeed, when we let go of hope we allow ourselves to fall in love, without any conditions whatsoever.

Dispensing with hope allows us to be committed to an outcome and to take actions toward it now. Have you ever talked with a business associate or a friend who said, “We’re really hoping xyz will happen.” Guess what? Hope is a really lousy strategy. If you really want to make something happen, being committed and taking appropriate action increases your chances of making something happen than simply hoping for it ever will.

So go for it! Instead of hoping for something different, consider a different possibility. Create a new vision for the future. Take one small step every day that brings you closer to that vision. Relish where you are now. Give up hope and allow yourself to fall madly in love with your life.

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