Beyond Disappointment

2013-1007 Baby DisappointmentThe inspiration for this post came from an article written by Deborah Grayson Riegel who is a communication and behavior expert, published author, and president of Elevated Training, Inc.

Some of us have mostly good days, but some of us have mostly bad days. There is no question in my mind that all of us have some days that are better than other days. Even for those of us who have more good days than bad, the setbacks of bad days take up a disproportionately large amount of time (thinking, feeling, and perseverating). Furthermore, bad days tend to cause a downward spiral of negative thoughts – one negative thought leads to another negative thought which makes an escape from the disappointment even more difficult. Rigel suggests “We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt the anger or fear or embarrassment (or all three at once).”

To understand how to bounce back after disappointment, let’s make sure we are all using the same definition of disappointment. The most straightforward definition I could find was explained by Chip Conley, New York Times best-selling author, who wrote in his book, Emotional Equations, that “Disappointment = Expectations – Reality.”

Rigel asks, “So, how can we bounce back better than before? How long should it take us?  And what can we do to set ourselves up for success – or [a] more productive disappointment – next time?” There are three primary strategies I think will help.

Recognize No Single Solution is Right for Everyone

I have not counted all the strategies that people use to bounce back after disappointment, but my guess is there are several billion. One thing to remember about disappointment is there is no single best solution for everyone. You will need to find the solution that works best for you and your situation. Comparing your progress to the progress of others is not necessarily the best thing to do. In some cases, comparing your success to the success of others is actually counterproductive.

Assume You Have Something to Learn from the Disappointment

Many people have failed repeatedly. My best guess is that at some point they were frustrated, disappointed, and perhaps a little depressed because of their failures. However, these people are excellent role models because they learned from their failures and disappointments, bounced back, and became known for their achievements. An excerpt from an article written by Kenneth Foo provides great supporting evidence:

  • Throughout his life, Abraham Lincoln received no more than five years of formal education. As he grew up, he experienced 12 major setbacks before “he was elected the 16th President of the United States of America.”
  • Thomas Edison “tried more than 9,000 experiments before he created the first successful light bulb.”
  • Before joining NBA, Michael Jordan was “just an ordinary person, so ordinary that [he] was cut from [his] high school basketball team because of his ‘lack of skill.’”

Understand Changing Goals to Avoid Future Disappointment is a Mistake

Success is not an entitlement program. You are not entitled to succeed simply because you want to succeed. No matter how many times you try to reach a goal, do not change the goal simply to avoid future disappointments. Changing your goals to pursue new opportunities is acceptable, but changing your goals due to negative thoughts is not the best approach. There are many strategies to get past negative thoughts such as “I’m not smart enough,” “I can’t do it,” and “this challenge is too difficult.”

Your Turn

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • What are your obstacles?
  • What keeps you going?
  • What makes you want to stop?
  • Are you open to suggestions from others?

Thanks to Chelle who shared the article with me, Chip Conley for defining “disappointment,” Deborah Grayson Riegel for writing the article, Kenneth Foo for providing supporting evidence, and all the people who either directly or indirectly made it possible for me to include the picture I used in this post.

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