The Dark Side of Hope

January 17, 2014 by John Andrew Williams

Thought of the Day: Over-Optimism can lead to Procrastination

Like everything good, Hope has a side that’s not so shiny. Like love that devolves into co-dependence. Gratitude that deteriorates into kissing butt. Or peace that passes into complacency.

Here Hope can lead to a complex known as Over-Optimism. (I just made that term up, but it seems like other people have made up that term before me. So I’m not sure that it counts, but I think it’s still a cool term.)

A high school student isn’t doing well in school. Let’s say Chemistry is especially horrific. But the student has a lot of hope. She has a clear idea of what she wants to accomplish. (All A’s.) She has a clear pathway defined by herself, her parents, and teachers. (Do your homework and study.) And she has agency. (She thinks she can easily get a better grade.)

But somewhere Agency – Oh, I got this – turns into whoops I guess I didn’t, better try harder next time.

As an Academic Life Coach who works with high school and college students, I unfortunately see this kind of pattern happen all. the. time.

It’s like students magically think away the very real possibility that they actually need to study and do their homework in order to get good grades on tests. And then it’s a surprise when it’s bad.

Too much hope leads to laziness. It’s the idea that you don’t really need to do the work because you trust so much in your ability to pull it off.

It would be like being the Little Engine that could but thinking that getting some momentum to get up that mountain was overrated. I’ve got this mountain no problem. I can go at chill speed.

What’s your balance between Over and Under Optimism?

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