We’ve been hearing a lot about hope lately. The tragedy is that so many of us don’t feel hopeful right now. Think of the brutal facts on the news, in our quarterly 401K statement or our paycheck (if we’re lucky enough to have one). Ouch. It’s hard to find the hope.

This is the perfect time to reacquaint ourselves with the Stockdale Paradox. That term was first coined in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great (1991). Jim Collins talked with Vice Admiral James Stockdale, who was a POW during the Viet Nam war. When asked how he survived his many years of captivity and torture, he didn’t mention optimism. In fact, Stockdale recounts that the total optimists died more quickly – as reality bore down on them and their hopes faded.

Vice Admiral Stockdale says that it’s a mixture of 1) faith that you’ll prevail AND 2) discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.

1) Yes, the economy will recover AND 2) No, I can’t splurge on a big vacation right now.

1) Yes, I will reach that healthy weight goal AND 2) I need daily tracking of food in and energy out to make it happen.

1) Yes, our company will survive AND 2) Our traditional customer base is dwindling, so we need new strategies.

You get the picture.

I think of the Stockdale Paradox as a seesaw in perfect balance – just the right amount of hope (lots of it!) balanced by the cold, hard facts of reality as well.

Is your seesaw in balance? Do you need to beef up the hope, or get more disciplined in confronting reality?

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!