His team was behind one run in the ninth inning, the bases were loaded with two out, and the leading hitter on the team was coming to bat. The crowd sat on the edge of its seat as he swung two bats in the on-deck circle, picked up the rosin bag, dropped it, straightened his helmet, knocked the dirt from his spikes, wiped his brow, raised the bat over his shoulder and wiggled it, pounded it on the plate, dug his spikes in, reached forward – and then watched the pitcher pick the runner off third base.
We all deal with disappointment in different ways. Some pout, a few get angry and others go into denial.
Repressing your feelings is a recipe for disaster. Ignoring things or holding them in only makes you feel worse. And it often magnifies the issue so that you cannot deal with it reasonably.
Getting angry isn’t any better. Remember, anger is just one letter short of danger. You risk taking your anger out on someone who doesn’t deserve it, making things worse.
Pouting – feeling sorry for yourself – is probably the most common response. But it’s not the best way to deal with the situation. When you dwell on the negative aspects of a disappointing situation, you are blinded to the opportunities that could be staring you in the face.
Leadership consultant Kevin Eikenberry explains: “We can become much better leaders and professionals if we can get past our internal language and live in the present moment. The present offers us opportunities to learn, opportunities to teach, opportunities to reinforce positive behaviors in others, opportunities to see our world in new ways, and opportunities to enjoy our day more fully.
“Staying in pouting mode closes the door to all of these opportunities because we don’t see them – we are too busy thinking about ourselves.”
How will you possibly reach your potential if you are busy fretting about the past? Allow me to share a little secret: Life is full of disappointments, but it’s also full of opportunity.
The first step to getting over a letdown is to let your feelings out – appropriately. Talk to a trusted friend or write in a journal. Resist the temptation to lash out at the offender or your co-workers. Be extremely careful what you post on social media, because as you already know, the post will outlast the problem and potentially follow you indefinitely.
Next, put your worries in perspective. Was this just a blip on the radar or a life-and-death situation? Did you lose out on a promotion or lose your entire career? Was this more of a fender-bender or 50-car pile-up? Ask yourself: Will this matter a year from now . . . a month from now . . . two days from now? Few disappointments will have the kind of lasting impact that are worth allowing to fester. Carrying a grudge is a very heavy burden.
Then stop and think about the things that are going right for you. As my mother used to say, “There is always something to be grateful for.” Focus on positive thinking and see if your attitude doesn’t improve dramatically.
Step back and analyze the outcome. What did you learn from your disappointment? Would it have mattered if you had handled the situation differently? And perhaps the hardest question to ask yourself: Did I set myself up to fail? There is an important lesson in every disappointment. You can learn a lot from some self-examination.
Finally, don’t give up. Many people have surmounted enormous odds to overcome significant disappointments and have risen to the top. No matter what your life goals are, you owe it to yourself to jump over the hurdle and get back in the race. You might have to change your plans, you might adjust your thinking, you might take a different direction. But you will be open to surprising opportunities if you keep hope alive.
Over my lifetime in business, I’ve had plenty of disappointments. It would have been easier to throw in the towel on several different occasions. But I could not imagine what would happen to me if I let problems dictate my future. I am in charge of my fate, not some outside influences.
You may not be able to prevent disappointment, but you can control your response to it.
Mackay’s Moral: Disappointment might knock you down, but don’t let it knock you out.
Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.
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