I will be honest with you. I really struggled with this week’s blog. Like many of you, I am very discouraged by the world today—the pandemic and lockdown…the demonstrations and violence…the anger—so much anger…

So I started to look for inspiration among my previous blogs. I ended up looking at my posts all the way back to my very first blog in January 2017. At first glance, the topics seemed wide and varied—about raising our children to be good and thoughtful human beings…about courage and taking chances…about the threat from Big Pharma and overmedication…about business challenges in today—and past—business environments…about self-care…and so much more.

But the one theme that stood out—that came up in many of my blogs in some way—is that we can change our world…our lives…our outlook…our behavior…if we want to.

So rather than say the same thing in a different way on a different day, I decided to replay one of my older blogs—from 2018. My wish is that these words encourage us all to change our world for the better.

In all of the beautiful profiles of Olympic athletes that are filling the airwaves morning, noon and night right now, never once did an athlete say that he/she “hoped” to win the gold. Nor did the athletes’ parents or their coaches say that. These portraits are intense and beautiful stories of grit, dedication and determination. Yet so many of us continue to “hope for the best.”

Hoping for the best is not a position of strength—it is a victim’s position. When you simply hope for the best, you give all of your power to whomever or whatever is going to make your success happen. But success is not about other people or things—it’s about you.

I don’t hope for the best…I never have. I research, plan and act. When I was 25 years old, I decided to leave New York and my great job in advertising to move to Colorado Springs with the man I would later marry. Sure, it was a little irresponsible—but the time to take those risks is when you’re young without family ties or major career consequences. Needless to say, there weren’t many advertising jobs in Colorado Springs, and the ones that did exist weren’t comparable to the job I was leaving at Grey, the major New York agency. But I didn’t “hope” to get out there and see what job I could find. I researched the agencies, wrote letters to all of them, networked through family and friends, and ended up becoming the media director at the second-largest agency in “the Springs.” It wasn’t hope—it was effort.

Hope can be defined as “to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment.” But here’s the thing—having an expectation does not make it so, no matter how many times you have watched The Secret or how much you believe in the laws of attraction and the power of manifesting.

Guideposts and The American Cancer Society websites are filled with stories of hope. “Hopeful stories are windows into the wonderful possibilities life has to offer…Turn to stories about hope whenever you need an encouraging boost on your path toward your best life,” implores the Guideposts website. Very true. Needless to say, when facing a cancer diagnosis or some other crisis, there is no question that a positive attitude and belief in a positive outcome are important.

Bottom Line published Harry S. DeCamp’s book Mind/Body Power nearly 30 years ago. Harry had been given a serious cancer diagnosis and was told to go home and get his affairs in order. Harry did that…and then he engaged in a deep spiritual battle against his cancer that included intense visualization techniques. Harry didn’t die for several decades—not because of hope but because of his extreme efforts to fight.

I know there are many people who fight valiantly against cancer and lose. Sadly, effort does not always guarantee success. But no effort certainly guarantees failure.

I was reminded today of my own father’s fight for survival after a seriously debilitating stroke at the age of 72. He would have been 89 years old this Valentine’s Day, and one of our long-term writers shared this remembrance of him: “I am reminded of his stroke and his remarkable recovery from it, his determination not to let it become his identifying feature, his certainty that he would get past it, and his success (not perfect but considerable) in doing just that.” My father returned to work months after his stroke left him speech-impaired and with limited use of his left arm. He didn’t hope to return. He busted his butt to do it.

Watching or listening to stories of people who are hoping for life to be different is tragic to me. Watching and hearing parents and government leaders enabling people to play victims is even sadder. We all have the opportunity to create our lives and to change them if they’re not working the way we want them to. We can’t “hope” our marriages better. We can’t “hope” our way to financial independence. And we can’t expect that someone or something is going to fulfill our dreams for us. Go ahead, and hope for magic to happen. But while you’re hoping, start paddling because no one else is coming to do it for you.

Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast,  where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life. 

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