5 Practical Ways to Evaluate Optimism

“Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.” Nietzsche

Our bluebirds lost hope this year and it’s good they did.

The tyranny of optimism is reluctance to explore potential failure. Image of a cartoon character ready to blow up something.

Lost hope:

Spring was mild in Pennsylvania this year. Our bluebird family had five eggs long before Mother’s Day. Momma bluebird brooded quietly through cold nights.

One day there were four eggs. A few days later the nest was empty. Her eggs lay in the grass. It wasn’t a predator. The eggs were intact.

Momma bluebird lost hope and emptied her own nest. She knows dead eggs don’t produce life, regardless of how long she warms them. It’s good she abandoned her eggs. Unfounded hope is deadly.

Leadership quote: Never trivialize crisis with frivolous optimism. Image of confetti.


Optimism is bondage when you believe dead eggs come to life.

Some hope prolongs torment. You aspire for people who don’t care and encourage people who prefer complaining. You offer solutions to people who respond with more problems.

Lost hope sets you free.

5 practical ways to evaluate optimism:

  1. Remember the sunk cost fallacy. Don’t invest in more training when previous training had no effect – unless you’re convinced the training was completely ineffective.
  2. What are you actually doing? Hope is motivation to take action Don’t sit around mumbling things will work out. Positive expectation is dangerous when it prolongs inaction.
  3. What are you doing differently? When hope prevents change, its destructive.
  4. How are you learning from experiences? Dangerous hope closes your mind.
  5. Evaluate your environment. When things change, maybe it’s time to adjust goals or abandon a nest.
Leadership quote: It takes humility, courage, and optimism to say this isn't working and I'm part of it. Image of a change sign.

Power of hope:

Hope enables you to flourish. Belief you will prevail keeps you going when nights get cold.  

Confidence about the future enables organizations and movements to retain talent.

Hope energizes effort. Optimism doesn’t transform lousy leaders. Hope is useful when it motivates action.

How might hope be destructive?

What fuels your optimism?

Still curious:

E.B. White: On Hope

6 Real World Ways to Build Hope

3 Questions that Identify Deadweight