The Death of Hope

Hugh Hefner (the founder of Playboy Magazine) once quipped that “marriage is the death of hope.” Without commenting on his observation, I would like to offer an alternative one. I think inertia is the death of hope.

If you have forgotten your high school physics, inertia is the property of matter by which the matter retains its state of rest or its velocity, so long as it is not acted upon by an external force. In simplified terms it means that whatever is happening is going to continue to happen unless something changes. There is even a grammatically incorrect aphorism for this phenomenon:

If you always do what you always done, you always get what you always got.

What is it that you want? More money, a challenging career, better health, a loving relationship? Whatever you are doing at this moment has not gotten you what you want. (If it did, you probably wouldn’t be longing for it.) To get it, something needs to change—that is obvious. So why doesn’t it? Inertia. Human beings succumb to inertia. We keep doing what we are doing unless something outside of us changes things.

Inertia explains why people stay in unfulfilling marriages and unfulfilling jobs. It also explains why people accomplish extraordinary things (like starting a charity) when befallen by some tragic event: the inertia is broken.

Inertia is insidious. It is patient, relentless and more difficult to break the longer it is at work. But it is worse than that, because inertia does its dastardly deed by killing hope. Take away a person’s money, they can earn more. Take away their hope and they is doomed.

Hope is an amazing thing. It can drive you to accomplish almost anything. People have started great businesses without money, without education and without experience. But never without hope. It is the only fuel you need. Whatever it is you want, you can start the journey to acquiring it if all you have is hope. Once hope is gone, all that is left is inertia.

I will not lie to you. Inertia is difficult to break on your own. Absent some external event, changing the course of your life by breaking your inertia is not easy. That is why getting fired from your job can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. Getting fired is definitely an external event that will break your inertia. My getting fired many years ago lead to me discovering my passion for writing. I doubt I would have four books published today had I not gotten fired all those years ago.

So, what can you do to try and break your inertia? While inertia kills hope, hope cannot kill inertia, but it can keep it at bay. You must nurture the hope. Nurture it to slow down the inertia just enough to do one thing: take action. Any action. Take one step in the direction of your hope. And then repeat: nurture the hope, take a step. That’s how it is with overcoming inertia: one step at a time. It’s all you can do on your own. There is no shortcut.

Nurture the hope. Take a step. Repeat. Don’t let the hope die.