You’ve experienced it before.
Dashed hopes. Disappointing results. Heartbreak. All in the pursuit of a dream.
As human beings, we all know what disappointment feels like. But while some accept defeat and give up on their goals and dreams, others use their disappointment to create new paths to achieve their goals – and they often succeed beyond their wildest expectations.
So what sets them apart from the average person? They’ve found effective ways to deal with their disappointment, and so can you by doing the following five things:
1. Write down your goals
Most of us struggle to get clear on our goals. We’re content to let our deepest desires exist in vague form. We fail to make them specific, write them down, and give them a timeline.
But people who survive disappointment do so with the help of their clearly written goals. They know that clear goals provide a path to achieving their dreams. Creating this roadmap ahead of time allows them to get back on track when they lose their way or get discouraged because of disappointment.
Want to create your own roadmap? Take a moment to flesh out that vague idea that’s been rattling around your brain. Write it down. Create an action plan. Don’t be afraid if it looks too big or unrealistic. A goal that is written and concrete can be adjusted over time while vague ideas disappear at the first sign of trouble.
Having clear goals will remind you that momentary setbacks are just steps along the way to achieving those goals. They’ll help you focus so you can keep your eye on the prize.
2. Let disappointment be your teacher
In the midst of a painful experience, you’ll naturally tend to resist the idea that you can learn a valuable lesson or two from it.
But successful people probe the wreckage of defeat to find those valuable lessons. They write them down. They study them carefully and commit them to memory so they can use their knowledge to succeed in their next effort. The people who pay attention to these lessons gain wisdom over time.
The next time you are disappointed, commit to writing down three things the experience taught you. Approach the experience with the attitude of an eager student.
3. Surround yourself with positive people
Nothing magnifies disappointment more than being surrounded by naysayers. They’re usually the people who are not courageous enough to chase after their own dreams. You won’t find them on the playing field in the arena of life.
Instead, they’ll be the first to rub your nose in it when disappointment strikes. They’ll be the first to say, “I told you so.” They’ll turn your momentary disappointment into evidence that you were a fool for chasing your dream all along and try to get you to be reasonable and give up already.
Successful people with a track record of turning defeat into triumph do all they can to limit their exposure to naysayers. They seek out people who can offer encouragement, wisdom, and positive feedback on areas that need improvement. And they’ll pick you up when disappointment hits you.
If naysayers are discouraging you, find positive people who are further along the path – so they can help lift you up and encourage you to keep moving forward.
4. Be persistent
The word persistent may conjure up images of the stubborn person doubling down on a failing strategy – unwilling or unable to accept defeat and move on.
Rather, the successful person knows how to persist in a different way. They are willing to throw in the towel on a failing strategy but are unwilling to give up on the dream (as many others mistakenly do). They learn to pivot into new strategies for starting that business, or writing that book, or running that marathon.
If you have tried one path for a while, but you’re not seeing results, don’t be tempted to give up on the dream. But don’t be afraid to refocus your efforts on a new set of goals.
5. Maintain your enthusiasm
I know. Easier said than done.
But if you examine the life of a successful person, you’ll see that they are somehow able to maintain their enthusiasm through their messy middle — or what Seth Godin calls “the Dip.” In fact, in their lifetimes, they endure multiple “messy middles” because every new path they pursued had one.
Probably the most painful aspect of the Dip is that it typically comes after experiencing some initial success. It’s natural for enthusiasm to dry up at this point. So how do the successful keep their enthusiasm alive?
They accept this period as part of the journey and fully embrace it. They also know that 99% of people quit at this point and that if they can push just a bit further, exponential results will follow.
How do you maintain your enthusiasm? See your disappointment as a sign that you are on the right path – it’s a sign that the dream truly matters to you.
Embrace Your Disappointment So You Can Thrive
If you’re committed to pursuing your dreams, you’re bound to face disappointment.
Use it as a tool, not just to help you survive, but thrive.
Enjoy the rollercoaster ride.
And let disappointment be the fuel that drives you to stay motivated instead of throwing in the towel on your dreams.
Cylon is a spiritual chaplain, musician, devoted husband, and busy dad of six. He blogs about practical spiritual tips for living well at Spiritual Living For Busy People – sign up and get his free guide 20 Little Tricks To Instantly Improve Your Mood Even If You Feel Like Punching Something (or Someone).