I think anyone who has seen The Office was touched by this moment:
One of the reasons viewers were so attached to Jim and Pam was the long history they had. Their story wasn’t your typical girl-meets-boy scenario we often see in TV and movies today where shortly after a brief meeting the couple either hooks up, or goes out a few times and then hooks up (as shown in a montage of various dates accompanied by an upbeat love song). In contrast, Jim and Pam’s love was one based on friendship that grew over time.
An ingredient that was essential to the resulting relationship between Jim and Pam is one that is often scoffed as being unrealistic or pushed down to avoid the risk of getting hurt; Hope.
What if Jim had listened to everyone who said he was crazy, and given up on the love of his life? What if he had decided to marry Karen or Katie instead? In the quote above, he says: “I knew I was waiting on my wife.” Yet, as humans, it is impossible for us to be absolutely certain of something like that, especially when it involves another person’s free will. What he really is saying in this quote is that he really, really, really hoped this woman would one day become his wife.
From a pretty young age, I have prided myself in being ‘realistic.’ In other words, I never allowed myself to hope for what I really wanted. I think that is a pretty common occurrence, as often we would rather suppress our desires than to face the possibility of crushing disappointment.
As I’ve gotten older, however, I realized that Jim actually had it right and I didn’t. If we are ever to achieve any of our goals or realize any of our dreams, we must first allow ourselves to hope for it. Here are three reasons hope is essential to living your dreams:
One of the first things we learn in clinical psychology is that clients often bring about their own worst fears through vicious cycles. For example, if someone is afraid of being rejected, they might allow (unconsciously) that fear to dictate their behavior. If that is the case they may behave in a way that is closed off and expressing distrust toward the other person. The receiving party then (understandably) is off put by the client’s behavior and so may act accordingly which then causes the client to feel rejected, effectively making their fear a reality. This idea that you live up to the expectations you set is called self-fulfilling prophecy and it is incredibly powerful. Just as it works negatively against people, we can also use it as a tool toward accomplishment. If we go into something with the idea that it is possible and attainable, our chances of achieving it increase dramatically.
Optimism inspires action.
Think about a time that you were excited about something. Did you lay in your bed and watch Netflix? Probably not. When we feel excitement we are motivated to act. Optimism (or hope for the future) causes us to work toward something because we feel that it is possible. If you think your goal to lose ten pounds, learn Italian, get a promotion, or even something more significant such as get married or become CEO isn’t really possible, you aren’t going to invest the time and work that is necessary. We pursue goals because we truly believe we can attain them. And the more optimistic we are, the more we will see the positive outcomes occurring in our lives because we are looking for them; as opposed to always being hyper vigilant about what could go wrong. The more optimistic you are about something, the more likely you are to attain it simply because you are more wiling to put in the work.
Your desires are important.
Desires are interesting because it’s hard to determine exactly where they come from. I’m not talking about your desire for a brownie or to be rich. There are desires deep within us that represent part of our identity. People want to be doctors, teachers, governors, mothers, fathers, athletes, policemen, writers, flight attendants, bankers, jewelry makers, actors, priests, nuns, fashion designers… there is a vast number of jobs, careers, and vocations; each one calls to a person in a unique way. Even though there are thousands of fashion designers, none of them design the exact same clothing or got to where they are the exact same way. We have desires to do or be things but it’s hard to say why; like the desire for love and community, they are innate. These desires are crucial parts of who we are and the fulfillment of them leads to our own personal fulfillment, joy and peace. That is why it is so important to understand what it is you really want and to pursue that.
Jim knew he wanted Pam, and he hoped that she would one day be his. He knew what he wanted and hoped it was possible; this led him to act in a way that allowed it to actually come to pass. Granted, I realize Jim isn’t like, a real person. However there are countless real people who discovered their desires and hoped they would one day realize them, and then did. JK Rowling, Ellen DeGeneres, Jim Gaffigan and Elon Musk are just a few names that come to mind.
Similarly, we’re called to certain things, those things are related to innate desires placed deep within us… and with some hope (even when things look bleak) we open the doors to make those possible.
Here’s to staying hopeful.