Maybe you didn’t get the promotion. Maybe a thief broke into your house and made off with every precious thing you owned.
Or maybe the person you fell in love with and wanted to marry didn’t return your feelings.
It happens to all of us. If you’re ambitious about life, you’ve suffered disappointments along with success.
In fact, it seems like the more you find success, the more it stings when things don’t go your way. You wonder, how in the world could this happen to me?
I hadn’t planned to write this post. But then I realized it’s danger in not talking about the real disappointments in our lives. So I’m going to talk about it. Because I know my readers, who are successful and ambitious, will face disappointments of their own. And sometimes, the best time to write about how to find your way out is when you’re in the middle of it.
So here’s everything I’ve learned, from my own experiences and others, about overcoming the emotional toll of defeat, and more importantly, how to keep on living well in spite of it.
1. Take time for reflection.
Sometimes our disappointment is driven by a fear of change that isn’t real. We wrap our self-worth around awards or promotions that aren’t meaningful and people who are not worth (or if they are, it makes that self reflection even more valuable). Whether it’s therapy or just discussing things with a friend, get clear on why you wanted what you did. You might find that your disappointment is an opportunity to change course towards a more positive direction.
2. Don’t give up too soon.
Once you know why you’re fighting for a dream, it’s a lot easier to keep going. There’s no magic number of times you try something before it either works or you concede to quit with honor. There are no guarantees your persistence will pay. You just have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and believe, “I gave it everything I had.”
3. Find a way to laugh.
Most people won’t do this. They’ll blow it off as silly, but it’s really powerful. Laughter releases “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin into the body, relieving tension and providing a momentary escape from the emotions that plague you.
It’s also a heck of a lot more fun than crying.
I’m convinced you can find a funny video on almost any topic on You Tube. If that doesn’t work, nothing cures the job blues better than your favorite comedy, a bowl of ice cream, and a great big belly laugh. Just do it.
4. Don’t dwell in your disasters.
During times like these, gratitude only comes with practice. Focus on what’s going right in your life; make a list of all the “lucky breaks” you’re probably taking for granted. Then allow yourself to enjoy them. You don’t have to pay homage to what could have been by being miserable. Pay your respects by acknowledging that what you have is enough.
A dream has died.
One of the big myths about grief is that it’s something you just “get over.” In fact, though you never stop grieving, you do learn to live with it. The problem is, you can’t get there logically. You have to follow the soggy breadcrumbs of your emotions and hope they take you home.
Recently I had a nightmare. I was taking my kids to school and I was (as usual) a bit late. We were rushing and I was pulling them along beside me. When I looked down I realized one hand was empty. I was frantic. I couldn’t find my child. How could a child go missing without me even realizing it? When I awoke, all was right with the world.
Setting and reaching for ambitious goals are important. It’s what keeps life interesting. But there’s no point in ruining the life you already have in pursuit of the one you can’t. Don’t let your dead dream become a ghost that hovers over your life.
“I’m grieving what was never there to begin with. I’m grieving an idea of myself and of my place in the world. I am not grieving what is or what was. I am grieving what doesn’t exist and what has never existed, except in my own thoughts. [But] there will be new dreams, different dreams, dreams that are based on what is real.”
You can’t always be lucky. And when your heart is broken, you can’t always be happy.
But you can be brave. You can embrace hope like an old friend. . . the one who lied, the one you forgave.