When Hope Isn’t Enough: Why You Need an Action Plan

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I like to think of myself as a hopeful person. And I really am— sometimes. Other days it feels like the sun will cease to shine and that there is no point to anything. I can become quite pessimistic on those days.

To hope is to desire something to exist that currently does not exist. It is the expectation and desire for something to happen. The challenge of hope is that expectation is a double edged sword:

In order to hope you must actively expect a different future while simultaneously experiencing the not-different present.[Tweet that]

What you want is not what currently is and the tension between the two can be disheartening.

The deeper the hope, the more difficult it is to stay in the tension between the present and the future— and none of us love tension.

The tension makes it difficult to choose to move toward hope, so much so that we cannot rely on our ability to consistently make that decision. If you leave it up to how you feel in a given moment to dictate whether or not you take action on behalf of what we hope for, your work will be inconsistent—  start and stop.

You need a commitment to an action plan that leads you toward the future that you hope to create.[Tweet that]

This provides you with steps and plans to guide you when you doubt and struggle. You can’t rely on inspiration and good feelings to achieve your deepest desires, you need commitments and habits to hold you to the path.

It’s much easier to fight a single battle than it is to win a war.[Tweet that]

We all need to ways to break our ambitions down to bite-size chunks.

Here’s a simple example: let’s say that you want to write a book. I don’t know what the topic or focus is, or the way that you want to make an impact with it, but let’s say that you do.

Every day you talk about wanting to write a book. Every day you think about wanting to write a book. You even think about who you want to read this book and how you want them to feel when you read it. You dream about who you want endorsements written by for the back cover.  

The problem is this: you still haven’t written it and every time you think about sitting down and writing, you have to battle your fear and your self-doubt. You have to fight with the tension of the present (your bookless self) and your desired future (a beautiful book that is impacting people).

That is a lot to battle every single day.

To commit to your hope is put an action plan into place that will consistently lead you toward it.[Tweet that]

In this example, it could be a schedule. You write 1000 words first thing every single day. Now, when you wake up tomorrow the battle isn’t over whether or not you will be able to write a whole book, but over whether or not you will write 1000 words. 1000 words is easy!  

I know I would not be able to write a book on a hopeless and depressed day, but I can certainly write something on those days.  Having a plan, a habit, and a routine break down the big hope into small and manageable doses.

Writing a book, though difficult, is a relatively simplistic example, but the principle applies. Some of you are dreaming about changing cultures, starting organizations, running for office, building and/or taking down empires, healing deep wounds, etc.— hopes with many more moving parts.

For me, there are good days and there are bad days. Sometimes there are bad weeks and months too. There are times when I want to quit because what lies ahead feels insurmountable. On some of those days one of the few things that keep me going is a plan.

In those moments I don’t feel like I will ever make it all the way there, but I know that if I take one step today I will be one step closer. Those are the moments when an action plan really matters.

What about you? What do you want to do?

What is an action plan that will lead you in that direction? Tell us in the comments. Also, if you want help or feedback on your plans, just ask in the comments. We’re here to help!

Dan Cumberland is on a mission to push you into the places meaning, life, & work intersect. He is the author of The Meaning Manifesto. Read more about him here, and connect with him on facebook and twitter.

There Are 6 Comments On This Post.

  1. renee

    I know what my life’s work is. I have known since an early age. God chose me to with stand some of the most traumatic events, a woman could go through. With that my forte~ is working and volunteering in the social services. I work with homeless, menmnntally ill women and street teens.
    My experiences, I would like to reach more, by writting a book, along the way my journals have been stolen, and I am still experiencing a lot. I want to and have to get started on this book. I would also like to do a TED talk for my bucket list…help

    • I love the things you’re doing and thinking about Renee. You should absolutely get started on that book! There are a few book writing courses out there that might be helpful. Have you tried any of them?

  2. Ruth

    This is encouraging. I have high hopes for my relationship with God and with friends. I have goals in my job and at school. Most of the time, these are overwhelming. While reading your article, I understood that I can do something about these hopes and goals, little things one day at a time. I already have an action plan in mind. Thank you. I pray that you continue to faithfully work for your hopes and goals. It is truly encouraging.

  3. Carol

    Thank you for sharing this, I had one of those bad days yesterday and today morning. I would have such high hopes and then fro nowhere I would lose all hope. Now I understand, I want to build my relationship with God, family, friends and my future husband.
    I believe I can achieve more so plan is every time I feel low, I would read a verse that encourages and speaks to me. I will also be serious about my baking.

    Thank you Dan, you are God sent and an amazing inspiration…you have reminded me what God has been telling me silently that I need to build my faith by reminding myself of His promises in the Bible.

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