Just after arriving in New York three weeks ago, I received an unexpected invitation to perform at an exclusive charity benefit this spring. Needless to say, I was thrilled and immediately viewed this as a sign that perhaps I’m meant to stay in New York longer than planned before heading back to Paris. The kid-like excitement I felt upon being offered a gig at my dream venue (and for a meaningful cause) is a feeling for which I’m grateful and one familiar to anyone working in a field where a high degree of passion and unpredictability are involved.
Two weeks later, the excitement ended with a phone call informing me that the event organizers had decided to go with dancers instead of featuring a musical guest. Disappointments like these happen all the time in business and it’s important not to be too affected by them; many elements lie outside our control. However, as a non-superhero and a passionate artist, my heart still sank for a moment when I received the news. This feeling of disappointment is one to which we can all relate; getting our hopes up and being let down is something we learn early on as kids (e.g. an unsuccessful tryout for a sports team) and something we’re confronted with to varying degrees throughout our lives.
How we respond to these little – and sometimes rather huge – bumps in the road is incredibly important because it greatly determines what happens next for us, internally and externally. Accepting disappointment is essential to being a happy, confident, driven and productive person.
As German philosopher Nietzsche once said, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” It’s true. I believe we need to consciously allow ourselves to feel whatever it is we’re feeling – hurt, sadness, anger, or whatever else – without judgment. Emotions are part of what makes us human. However, once we’ve experienced and acknowledged these feelings, we need to consciously lift that heavy emotion from our shoulders and relieve ourselves of its weight. Sometimes this is easily done and other times it takes a lot of work; but either way, it’s necessary. Because negative feelings inhibit our ability to move forward — and to turn an unfortunate circumstance into something more positive than we could have imagined. Below are some tips on how to shift your mindset, empower your heart and improve your resilience.*
5 Ways To Turn Disappointment Around:
1/ Let it reset you. Once you’ve allowed yourself to feel, decide to use this setback as an opportunity to regain focus and clear your mind. Allow it to shift your priorities. For instance, if someone has disappointed you in a major way, you may want to adjust your expectations from this person; if you were turned down for a job or promotion, assess the situation and decide where to go from here. It’s empowering to recognize that you have the power to make positive changes in your life. You decide where to direct your energy and time; even if you’re hurt or otherwise adversely affected by a recent disappointment, this is an opportunity for you to take control of your life.
2/ Know that whatever pain you’re experiencing does not predict your future. Most great success stories are preceded by plenty of failures and heartbreaks. The deciding factor in what happens next is you and is independent of whatever has just occurred. Every great fighter has been knocked down at one time or another, just as anyone who’s ever puts his or her heart on the line has risked falling hard. But you’re still here – and as miserable as you may feel right now, you have the ability to feel just as intensely happy in the future.
3/ Focus on what you have (gratitude). Take a step back and recognize how very blessed you are. Rolling into a ball of self-pity might feel good for about 10 seconds (and only if you must); beyond that, it’s totally unproductive and can warp your sense of reality. When you truly feel gratitude for all you have, your heart will automatically move from empty to at least partially full, regardless of how down you’re feeling.
4/ Recognize there’s more than one way to get what what you want. When you’re disappointed by a certain outcome, it’s often because you wanted something very specific to happen: your goal. Rather than focusing on the current outcome, attach yourself even more deeply to your desires. When you do this, you’ll see that there is more than one route to achieving what you’re looking for, and in some instances there may even be an alternate goal. (For a great explanation of this concept, check this out.)
5/ Ready. Set. Fly. After following the above 4 steps, this one should arrive naturally. You’ve felt and lived your disappointment; you’ve cried and/or expressed your anger, journaled, gone for some hardcore workouts and released the angst inside of you — you’ve done whatever you needed to do to let that sh*t out of your body. Now you’re prepared to begin anew, with more information and lessons learned. You’ve evolved and you’re stronger from having weathered the storm. Smile and give yourself some credit. (Depending on the intensity of your circumstance, it may take a little while to reach this place emotionally, but don’t give yourself too much time.) Only you have the ability to pick yourself up, to focus on what you want, and to feel empowered by your experiences. More difficulties and disappointment are bound to meet you at some point in the future; view each one as an opportunity to grow your mental and emotional toughness. Trust yourself and let each obstacle prepare you to become your strongest, happiest and most kickass self.
* Song For This Moment: “Timebomb” by Tove Lo.
“When the worst thing that could happen, could be the best thing ever.” – Tove Lo.
Related Links & Sources:
“Get Gritty and Win”, article in NoBubblegum.
“How To Deal With Disappointment”, article in Personal Excellence.
“How People Learn To Become Resilient”, article in The New Yorker.
“The Profound Emptiness of Resilience”, article in The New York Times.
* In the case that your suffering is severe (i.e. while enduring a traumatic experience or a major loss), please seek professional help.