top of page

How hope can hold you back from achieving your goals.

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

On June 11, 1962, Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin escaped the Alcatraz prison. There has been no trace of these convicts ever since. But to the prison officials and the FBI, this escape was a headscratcher. Because all previous escapes ended with drownings or prisoners caught.

So how did this escape even come about?

Over weeks, the prisoners built an electric drill, inflatable boat, and papier-mache heads. They created the electric drill using a spoon, a dime, and a vacuum motor. An inflatable boat using fifty stolen raincoats. And papier-mache heads with paper, paint, and hair.

In their cells, they drilled the salt-damaged walls around the air vent.

They worked on this during music hour to mask the noise. Once they could access the air vent, they cleared all obstacles. And to not arouse any suspicions, they had false walls covering the drilled holes.

On escape night, the prisoners placed the papier-mache heads and pillows under their blankets to make it seem they were in bed. Next, they climbed into the vents to exit the building. And then they went out to sea with their inflated boat. Escaping Alcatraz forever.

Trying to achieve your goals with hope is as hard as escaping Alcatraz. It might be possible, but it is extremely difficult. I could list several reasons why having hope makes achieving your goals harder. But in this article, I'm only going to mention three. And these three are good enough reasons not to rely on hope for most things in life.

So what are these three reasons?

Well, they are:

  • You become passive

  • You become fearful

  • You experiment less in life.

Alright, let's talk about how hope makes you passive.

When people hope, they are undermining themselves from making progress in their goals. The reason I say this is because when you hope, you are giving up a portion or all of your personal power to change a situation.

By hoping, you are relying on external factors for success. You forget about the personal power you have to change a situation. So you sit back and pray that everything works out in your favour.

This is incredibly weak!

And I can say this because I used to hope for better situations while being dependent on factors I had no control over.

I had hoped a toxic family member would change.

I had hoped that my crush would like me back.

I had hoped that new people I met would like me.

I hoped so much in my life that many of the goals and dreams I wanted never came to fruition.

Because I did nothing to change the situation.

Had I thrown hope out the window and relied on taking action, I would have gotten much more out of life early on. I would have stood up for myself in family conflicts, asked my crush out, and initiated social hangouts with new people.

Life would have been more fruitful had I been more active. It's a simple truth. Another way hope holds people back from getting what they want is by making them fearful.

You become fearful

One of the things I love about philosophy is that it shows you the relationship between different things. When I was 24, I read Letters from a Stoic by Seneca. And Seneca taught me that hope was always accompanied by fear. Since I'm not as eloquent as these ancient Romans, here is the direct passage from Seneca:

"'Cease to hope … and you will cease to fear.'… Widely different [as fear and hope] are, the two of them march in unison like a prisoner and the escort he is handcuffed to. Fear keeps pace with hope … both belong to a mind in suspense, to a mind in a state of anxiety through looking into the future. Both are mainly due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present."

Hope and fear are intimately related to each other.

When you hope for something, there is also the fear that you won't get it. And when you feel fear, it paralyzes you from taking the necessary action.

Living with hope takes you away from the most precious moment you have, which is the present moment. You're so busy living in your head with hope and fear that life is passing you by.

It's necessary to shed off hope so that you can also shed off fear.

This Greek Existential writer Nikos Kazantzakis sums this up perfectly: "I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free."

When you choose not to hope and take full advantage of the current moments of your life, you will come off as courageous and free—living a life that is authentic to you. And that, to me, is worth sacrificing hope.

However, there is one more reason why hope is not so great for you to achieve your goals.

You experiment less

So when hope makes you passive and fearful, this culminates in you not experimenting in life anymore.

When hope is a significant driver in your life, it makes you want to be safe. So you don't take any chances in mixing things up. As a result, life becomes very routine. Where you hang out with the same friends, do the same stuff, watch the same stuff, etc.

I've seen this happen in my own life and adults 10-20 years my senior.

Wherewith hope, they lose the drive to experiment with what life offers. And it makes sense when you're passive and fearful, the world seems too challenging, too much of a burden. And it's better for external factors or other people to figure it out.

However, this is almost living like a dead person.

When you lose your ability to experiment with social activities, career, dating, etc., you put the nail in the coffin trying to discover your true potential.

This is odd because, with hope, you want to become more than you are. And just waiting for things to work out. But the problem with too much waiting is that you act like a dead person who can't live anymore.

Hope paralyzes that passion for life.

There is no other way to put it. As Nikos said, hope for nothing, and you will be free.

Free to make mistakes.

Free to create experiences.

Free to be yourself.

Life has too much to offer to just hope for success with your goals. Shed the hope and do what you need to do to make progress!

Now I know I sound like a demon saying hope is terrible.

Because to a lot of us, we think that hope is good. And I get that reasoning. So let me clarify this, hope is usually not useful for people who are not in dire situations. And when I say bad conditions, I mean living in a famine, a concentration camp, a war, etc.

In his excellent book, Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl mentions how hope is what kept some people alive through the treacherous living conditions in the concentration camps. So, in that case, I highly value hope.

But for people who are in better living conditions.

Do not rely on hope but on yourself, courage, and willingness to take action. If you do that, you will get much more out of life than hope.

Because when you are actively engaged with life, you will get results and the opportunities to adjust for improvements. As a result, you will start gaining success sooner or later. And the only thing you will regret is that you didn't start sooner.

One person who understood that you could not rely on hope at all was Bill Walsh.

Bill Walsh's coaching journey

If you don't know who Bill Walsh is, he is a famous NFL coach. But why is he famous? Let's go through NFL memory lane to answer that.

On January 9, 1979, the San Francisco 49ers hired Bill Walsh as the head coach. The team just finished their season with two wins and fourteen losses. They looked hopeless. Walsh's first season as head coach (1979) was no better, with the same record as the previous season.

But something was different this time.

Although the team lost many games, they were much more competitive. Next season in 1980, the team got six wins and ten losses, an improvement but still a losing record. The patience of the 49ers executive team was running thin for Walsh. Despite the team's progress, the team was still no closer to making the playoffs. But Walsh was given another season to coach. And he paid no attention to doubts around his coaching ability. Then, for the 1981 season, the 49ers suddenly became NFL champions!

Within three seasons, Walsh took the bottom-dwelling 49ers and turned them into champions. A feat unheard of in the NFL—but how did he do it?

Well, he just made sure that everyone on his team did their jobs correctly.

He didn't care about the scores or the opinions of others. He didn't hope that all of the practices or training would work out. Walsh just ensured everyone in the 49ers, from coaches to the punters, did their jobs as best as possible.

Not worrying about anything else.

Bill Walsh didn't hope for favourable circumstances like another team failing, a more patient executive team, or refs being favourable in games.


He focused on what he could do with his team, and that was it. And as you live your life, you need to focus on what you can do. Because believe it or not, you can accomplish much more than you think. However, with all that said, some people might make the mistake of going all nihilist on me.

Being a nihilist is a mistake.

Mind you, this is my opinion. But shedding all hope and being a nihilist, where people say 'it doesn't matter or 'what's the point?' is incredibly immature because life is all about your actions. Even if what you build will fall long after you are gone. It doesn't matter.

What you build or the goals you achieve matters in your life. Great civilizations like the Romans, Greeks, Mongols, Turks, Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Abyssinians, and many more, all built and developed great societies. Yet, we look at these places now, and they pale compared to what their ancestors had achieved.

So if these great leaders of these past civilizations were nihilists, they wouldn't have achieved or developed much. Perhaps delaying the growth and prosperity of proceeding generations.

I am trying to make the point that you will get more meaning and satisfaction in life when you make a conscious effort for your goals and dreams.

Yes, do not rely on hope.

But rely on yourself, courage, and willingness to take action. And over the long run, you will be surprised with the goals you can achieve.

Summary time!

  • When you rely on hope to achieve your goals, you make yourself passive, fearful, and reluctant to experiment.

  • Hope makes you passive since it makes you dependent on external factors, like people, situations, etc., for success with your goals.

  • Hope makes you fearful since the hope of success is also accompanied by the fear of failure. Making you hesitant to take action.

  • Hope makes you experiment less in life. Being passive and fearful culminates in not wanting to try new things, paralyzing your passion for life.

  • Hope is suitable only for dire situations. But other than that, it should not be relied on.

  • A simple mistake of shedding hope is becoming a nihilist. Being a nihilist is a weak excuse to not make the most out of life since it will all be gone in the long run. But your actions will give your life meaning and satisfaction, despite that it will not matter in the eternity of time.

It may take some time to rid yourself of hope.

But understand this, you are more capable than you think. You have to get rid of some bad habits like hoping. Because if three criminals can escape the inescapable Alcatraz without relying on hope. Just imagine what you can do.


The Charismatic Nerd


bottom of page