Hope and Optimism

What is the difference between hope and optimism? Are these words interchangeable? I think optimism is a natural product of hope. I cannot be optimistic without hope. On the other hand, I can hope with no sign of optimism. Thoughts. Yes. I still am writing my book proposal. Please forgive this short post.

29 Responses to Hope and Optimism

  1. Amy Corcoran-Hunt June 11, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

    I think they’re technically the same and interchangeable. But “hope” seems like a free-floating feeling. Optimism and pessimism feel like they have a relationship to evidence, facts, rationality, something terra firms. I am optimistic about stem cells. I am pessimistic about anything big pharma does. Hope? It just floats around. I’m sure this is no help at all. I’m a writer. There you go.

    • Amy Corcoran-Hunt June 11, 2015 at 8:27 pm #


  2. Nik June 11, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

    Doesn’t one come from your heart /emotions (hope) and one comes for your brain/rational thoughts? Grasping at straws here….. 🙂

  3. Christopher June 12, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

    Optimism is the childlike naivete that one can prance along through a shit-storm in a white linen suit without getting hit.

    Hope is the suspension of disbelief that the cleaners are still open, and will take a credit card.

    • Richard M. Cohen June 12, 2015 at 2:38 pm #



    • yvonne June 13, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

      Christopher-that reply…hysterically correct

  4. Francine June 12, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

    I think of hope as based on emotion, but I think of optimism as being a reaction to promising news or information. I can hope for something (want it) but not expect it to happen.

  5. Candy June 12, 2015 at 10:37 pm #

    I “hope” when the odds are low and feel “optimistic” when the odds are high. Hope is often attached to dread, worry and an overall lack of control. Optimism feels positive and attainable.

    • MB June 13, 2015 at 11:21 am #

      Perfect distinction between hope and optimism, Candy. You hit it out of the park.

      • Anne June 15, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

        Agree, Candy nailed it for me. I can hope, wish for many things, like winning the lottery. When I feel optimistic about something, then I feel the odds are in my favour.

        Good input from everyone.

  6. Dale June 13, 2015 at 1:24 am #

    How interesting. Yes subtle but definitely different. I think Candy nailed it here.
    Happy you’re writing Richard. Write some for me will you? On advice of friend and local author TM Murphy I started writing some of the funnier stories culled out of random field journals. It got frustrating when my left hand no longer cooperated on the keys. Do you ever use a speech to type program? I probably talk too fast for those. Perhaps I will simply continue to tell them over beers.

    • rmcjourneyman@gmail.com June 15, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

      I cannot work that way. Have to see what I write. I need to know where I havebeen to figure out where I am going.


      • Dale June 16, 2015 at 1:14 am #

        I hear ya. Guess the same reason I stick with real books, not electronic. Ok will just stay with hunt and peck on the left like I have to do with work stuff.

  7. David June 13, 2015 at 3:14 pm #

    I agree, you cant be optimistic without hope. I think being hopeful delves into a spiritual aspect of life or at least something beyond natural. When I am hopeful;l I don’t pay attention to logic as much. When someone sees me struggle to survive and also sees me become more disabled I always say I am hopeful,always.

    They might also say how optimistic I stay, hopeful first.

    No matter what you believe,it doesn’t make sense, just like MS doesn’t either.

    • Elizabeth June 14, 2015 at 10:49 am #

      David, my first thought matched yours about being hopeful needing to come from a more spiritual place. I don’t think you can force yourself to be hopeful or optimistic for that matter if deep down you are not feeling a force that is positive. You can pretend to be, but are really just suppressing your instinctual feelings.

  8. yvonne June 13, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

    I can use them in a sentence: I have hope the Biotin trials will prove beneficial to those of us that have SPMS but I am not overly optimistic about the outcome of the trials.

  9. Elizabeth June 14, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    I love the fact that you encourage thought with posts like these. It requires my brain to go deeper than just thinking about the present situations that I face, which can sometimes be overwhelming and discouraging.

    The comments have been awesome. I think of hope in two ways. I can “feel hopeful” that is more rooted in my outlook on life, different than the active form of hoping for something specific to happen. I hope my son will get a great job soon.

    While they are interchangeable I think of optimism more as a general personality trait or attitude, more long term than short term. I think you can have one without the other.

    Richard “I hope” you are feeling better. I am really curious what spurred this post.

    • rmcjourneyman@gmail.com June 15, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

      A book proposal that all of you afre helping mewrite.


  10. Jack June 14, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

    I agree with Elizabeth that optimism is an attitude. One can have a generally optimistic approach to daily challenges. For me, hope has an emotional component that is connected to a real need or desire to change the current reality. You can have hope without optimism, but I prefer to have both.

  11. Jan June 14, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

    I see hope as extending a feeling or belief to someone or something external to myself; optimism as something I have total control over.

  12. Sandy June 14, 2015 at 11:09 pm #

    Hope can be a negative expression..as in the neighborhood curmudgeon who hopes the neighbor kid’s car wont start so he doesn’t have to hear the noise. Or he hopes that the neighbors barking dog runs away.

    But in the positive, I think its like a graph. Hope is each data point on the graph and optimism is the line that connects them. Stringing your hopes together yields optimism. Optimism is an attitude-a demeanor.

    Having said all that….Christopher nailed it.

  13. Jan June 14, 2015 at 11:12 pm #

    …and for hope–in a certain, trusted, possibly just imagined outcome; for optimism, more of an attitude.

  14. Jan June 14, 2015 at 11:16 pm #

    Sandy, I see you also used the word attitude and we must have been writing at the same time…

  15. Joan Z June 15, 2015 at 6:50 am #

    I have nothing to add that all of you eloquent, insightful, brilliant MSers haven’t said. But I do think my next two dogs are going to be named Hope & Opti. Thanks for that!

  16. Geof June 15, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    For me, the difference in the two terms lays in one’s expectations. Optimism implies an expectation of a positive outcome or set of outcomes. Hope is the ability to conceive of and imagine a good outcome after we have set aside all of our expectations for good or ill.

    Hope remains independent of our logic. At times, it may be buttressed by our optimism and logical expectations. Yet at other times, it may be the last defense standing alone in the path of the hurricane of our existence which seems to blow away all that upon which we have built our lives.

    Some days, we must all hide behind our hope, taking shelter until the sun shines once more so that we may begin to build anew.

  17. Sandy June 15, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    I know the subject it hope and optimism. But I have to throw in superstition – the evil stepsister of optimism. I am an RRMS person (clinging to the RR with both hands) and I have to say I have become a bit superstitious over time. What makes the R happen and what begets the second R. Are there triggers? Something I am doing to not doing? Seriously you can make yourself nuts over it.

    But quoting Michael Scott from “The Office”, “I’m not superstitious, I’m just a little stitious.”

    So I go on, optimistic and a little stitious.

  18. Joan Z June 16, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    These seemed interchangeable to me until I thought of their opposites. Hopeless is the big, scary monster hiding under the bed. Pessimist is the buzzing mosquito you keep swatting at and missing. Hope seems to pack a bigger wallop than optimism, when I look at having neither. Another thought provoking post Richard. Looking forward to the new book!

  19. Patti June 30, 2015 at 6:32 pm #

    Optimism is something that I practice, Hope is something I cling too.

  20. Laurie July 3, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    Interesting to read the replies. I tend to be a pessimist but with hope. Believing in yourself helps too.