Life Lesson #4: Hope is not a Strategy… but every Strategy needs Hope


I often observe people seriously over-using the words: “hope” and “hopefully” when outlining their expectations and intentions.

This immediately activates my BS radar and every additional utterance of either word make me feel increasingly uncomfortable.



If the individual is in a position of power and/or responsibility, expect trouble.

They’re either: (a) creating a smoke screen to avoid admitting they don’t have any workable plans for achieving expectations, carrying out declared intentions, or meeting obligations or, (b) delusional.


In its purest sense, “hope” describes an optimistic state of mind where a person expects a good outcome for no better reason than they have a positive attitude.  In contrast, a realist has concrete plans supported by a genuine capacity to achieve success.

Hope is an emotional stance that, in effect, relies on the benevolence of Lady Luck.  Granted, we all need and want good luck, but by definition “luck” is something we receive without doing anything to earn it.  We can’t rely on it, especially when we seek sustainable success.

Strategies are high-level plans designed to achieve broad and/or long-term objectives.  As the end result of a cerebral problem-solving process, they require some form of physical implementation to convert pure intent into meaningful and tangible results.

Therefore hope cannot be a strategy, because it’s an emotion, not a plan.

Although hope cannot be a strategy in itself, it plays a major role in the development and implementation of many strategies, and solutions.  Hope inspires and initiates new strategies, and motivates leaders, teams, and whatever personnel are responsible for carrying out the resulting plan.  It’s also a source of powerful emotional support – bolstering individual commitment and nourishing resilience in the face of adversity.

On its ownsome hope doesn’t get anything done, but as a motivating force hope helps to power all viable strategies (ie: those that believe they will achieve their goals).  Most people are motivated to achieve success; nobody is motivated by the desire to fail.

Why create strategies?

We generate strategies to resolve relatively complex and significant problems.   Effective problem-solving requires a gamut of active ingredients to provide relevant and adequate: clarity (of issues and objectives), information, knowledge, analysis, judgement, option generation, skill, and resource capability.  These elements are combined, with purpose, to produce action plans.  Hope injects belief, energy, and commitment into strategies, but has to be a part of a workable plan if it’s to contribute to an actionable results.  To merely hope for success achieves nothing beyond a transitory feel good.

So, although hope is not a strategy, it does make an important contribution to the success of many strategies.  Every considered action has two components:  (1) Conception – think it out; (2) Emotion – motivation to act.

Individuals, groups, and organisations are far more likely to act when they hopeful and: (a) believe something is worthwhile and (b) feel confident they’ll achieve their goals.     Without hope, even good plans fail, because the people who need to carry them out lack the will to commence, or to see the plan through.

In an evolutionary sense success equates to survival, and we’re hard-wired to try to survive.  At an emotive level, success generates recognition, rewards, and personal validation from important others: family, friends, colleagues, bosses, and society in general.

Hope generates passion and passion can be infectious – rippling out to inspire everyone to strive harder for success.  But because it’s intangible, hope cannot be objectively measured or quantified, although it’s usually obvious whether it’s present or not – presence presents as motivated purpose and optimism; absence shows up as disinterested or despairing confusion, and pessimism.

Hope is a symbiotic outpouring of human energy.  It thrives when merged with an appropriate strategy, or withers and dies when it lacks a plan to attach itself to.

Think of it this way: hope is the emotional rocket fuel that encourages us to reach for the stars when logic tells us to give up and get a sandwich.

Lesson Learnt

When somebody with responsibilities fervently talks about what they “hope” will happen, without reference to any substantive plans, and supports their protestations of hope with repetitive “hopefullies” as they explain what they hope will happen, insist on seeing some sort of formally worked out plan of action. 

It’s London to a brick that no workable plan exists.

At least you’ll know what (or what not) you’re dealing with ……     

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