We all experience disappointment—significant and minor ones. One morning last week, I got out of bed and shuffled down the stairs, my vision blurry because I hadn’t yet popped in my contacts. I needed coffee way more than I needed to see clearly. As I descended my staircase, I spied a shock of red on the other side of my glass front door. It fanned out and filled the bottom half of the glass and was impossible to miss. A surprise present? This delivery would’ve been made between 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM.
I opened the door with anticipation and was greeted by 12 long-stemmed roses, beautifully arranged in a crystal vase. Wow! My husband took our previous night’s discussion to heart. He had disappointed me by making a decision I didn’t agree with. With this gift, he sent me the message that even though he stood by his decision, it didn’t mean that he didn’t love me and value my input.
I picked up the vase and breathed in the perfume of the biggest, reddest roses I’d ever seen. I was impressed. After 25 years of marriage, Jeff isn’t one for big romantic gestures.
I searched the roses for a card, a thoughtful phrase of my husband’s continued commitment to our marriage. No card. I thought that was strange. Then I realized there wouldn’t have been an opportunity for Jeff to have bought and delivered these flowers. He went to bed before me and carpooled to work before the sun rose.
They must be for our 16-year-old daughter. Jeff confirmed my disappointment, and we had a good laugh about it.
I wasn’t jealous, but I did feel old and just a little wistful. To everything there is a season, right? My current season obviously doesn’t include long-stemmed roses placed overnight on my doorstep.
Our daughter had been hanging out with a boy for a few weeks, not a boyfriend, mind you. Apparently, there are several, well-defined stages a teen boy and girl must pass through before officially dating. These roses signified that this boy cared for my daughter, maybe asking her to become his girlfriend. I was happy for her. She had slept at a friend’s house, so she’d have a nice surprise later that morning.
This minor disappointment of mine, along with a major one I experienced last month, having to do with my long-term goal of traditional publishing, spurred me to contemplate how we process disappointment. I believe there are right and wrong ways for handling disappointment. Here is my list of Dos and Don’ts.
- Don’t let disappointment turn into discouragement. You have my permission to live with discouragement for a short time. A day or two – max! After a few days, discouragement could morph into despair. And that’s a place no one wants to reside.
- Do let a disappointment re-energize you. We’ve all heard the idiom, when one door closes another one opens. The reason this is now cliché is because it connects an accurate visual to the idea that disappointments are going to happen, but we will forget about the hurt when another opportunity – a better one – shows up. So what if one potential business association doesn’t want the gifts you have to offer? 10 others could. A rejection can be the beginning of a new, more exciting direction.
- Don’t let disappointment disable your momentum. Keep building your business. One lead, one reader, one client at a time. You must keep doing the thing you know must be done. The blogging, lead generation, social media engagement, networking – whatever activities that are necessary to grow your business and prevent stagnation.
- Do concentrate on the “why” instead of focusing on the “when.” Often, disappointment is the result of something happening or not happening that conflicts with your timetable. Remind yourself of your long-term goals and why you are working as hard as you are. The “no” you’ve just experienced becomes the “not yet.” This perspective will take the sting out of your disappointment. Patience, my friend.
- Don’t exaggerate a disappointment. Watch the language you use with others and yourself when describing your disappointment. If you repeatedly verbalize, “This is a disaster,” you will start to believe it. Then discouragement and despair could set in. (see the first don’t)
- Do count your blessings. Another cliché that is chock full of wisdom. It’s all about focus and perspective. We find that which we seek. According to many studies on personality, an optimistic outlook versus a pessimistic one can be explained with biology. But there is a learned component as well. So a natural realist (to use a more positive term) can make a conscious effort to seek out a rainbow after the storm. Even in the worse cases, you can find something that feeds gratitude.
- Don’t play the blame game. At all costs, avoid pinning the blame on someone as a self-defensive mechanism. If there is a responsible party, handle them with professionalism, but only after you detach emotionally from your feelings of disappointment.
- Do choose carefully when sharing your disappointment. We all need a sounding board of trustworthy counselors comprising of a cheerleader, a pragmatist, and a brutally-honest confidante. If you don’t have these three in your emotional arsenal, seek and you will find them.
- Don’t let disappointment define you. The whole of what you bring to the table is absolutely greater than the sum of your disappointments.
- Do spend some time discerning whether to adjust your expectations. This doesn’t mean you’re giving up or lowering your standards. But you may need to re-evaluate your goals. If you’ve ever been called a dreamer or eternal optimist, maybe a reality check is in order.
Remember my minor disappointment at not being the recipient of the roses left on my doorstep? Apparently, it was not a teenage boy professing love for my daughter, but, in her words, “It was his unsuccessful attempt at a lame apology.”
My daughter handled her disappointment of his major transgression with strength of character and purposeful resolve. She took the bull by the horns, or rather the stems from the vase, and dumped them right in the trash. She moved on and never looked back.
We can all learn from her example.