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A Look at Disappointment

Posted by Jim Paluch, President, JP Horizons, Inc. | 5/10/18 2:22 PM
754-1In all the years of writing the People Solutions newsletter, the topic of disappointment has not been addressed. You might be thinking, "Of course it hasn't; it's supposed to be an inspiring, motivating, and ENERGIZING Friday morning read. The concept of disappointment is . . . well . . . is just so disappointing." And, if you said that, I would have to agree with you, yet stick with me on this topic and let's explore the concept of disappointment and . . . hopefully. . . you won't be disappointed.

Choosing Disappointment

Let's start with a definition and try to find some common ground to discuss the topic. I came across this definition that I believe has some merit and things to build upon:"Disappointment (noun) - the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfillment of one's hopes or expectations." I think that's pretty solid, and any of us who have experienced the emotion would probably relate with this definition. Now let me add a concept to consider while you are still thinking on our definition. What if disappointment was a choice and that concept was added to the definition? "Disappointment (noun) - The result of one choosing to feel sad or displeased with the non-fulfillment of their hopes or expectations."   
754-2You might now be asking, "Why in the world would one choose to be disappointed?" That would be a very fair and logical question, and, before I give my opinion, I want to ask you to do two things. The first: stop reading for a moment and try to answer that question yourself. Why would anyone choose to be disappointed? Give it a thought. My second request might seem a bit out of the ordinary but is possibly where the motivational part of this newsletter starts to appear. I want you to just thicken your skin a bit, sit up a little taller and feel tougher in your chair, like you can take any punch that someone might throw your way. Great, here is my response to your question . . . The reason you or I would choose to be disappointed is because we are . . . lazy! 
Now you may want to throw a punch my way, yet consider the following line of thought. If we agree on the original definition provided above, choosing to be disappointed comes with a couple of built-in excuses . . . "feeling sad or feeling mad" and if we really want to lower our game, we can be both sad and mad at the same time. And how do we generally perform a task, pursue a goal, or communicate with a peer or family member when we are feeling sad or mad? Certainly not as well as if we were feeling inspired and motivated. And if we are not going to perform at what we think is an acceptable level because we are sad and mad, then we might as well not try at all. "I think I will just sit here and stare out the window!" It could be that disappointment, sadness, and anger all fit into a category called "lazy emotions" which add to our definition above like this: "Disappointment (noun) the lazy emotion of choosing to be sad or displeased with the non-fulfillment of one's hopes and expectations, which allows one to sit and stare out the window."   

Lazy Emotions

Let me provide a couple more words that fit into the "lazy emotion category" and see how many more you can add. "Discouragement" is a great one. Everyone at one time or another has allowed themselves to experience the luxury of discouragement. "Underappreciated" is another that has a built-in excuse that justifies us saying . . . "Why even try?" You can also be confused, worried, suspicious, overwhelmed, misunderstood, insulted, disgusted, and depressed! Anytime we choose from this list and the many others that you might have added, we give ourselves permission to dwell in the muck and mire of being a victim, and no one is capable of performing at the highest level while feeling like a victim. 
754-3Let's step back for just a minute, take a deep breath and remember why you came to read this newsletter in the first place, looking for a little inspiration, motivation and to get ENERGIZED! It would be very unrealistic to say we should never be disappointed, discouraged, disgusted . . . or any of the other emotions we have considered here. Robots, a stone, and the chair you are sitting in do not experience emotions, but as humans we have a remarkable privilege of experiencing a multitude of emotions, including wonderful ones like love, happiness, and gratitude. As humans, we will be disappointed when expectations were not met or discouraged when a goal was not achieved and feel pain and heartache at the loss of a friend or family member. If we are living life, we will experience a full range of emotions including both disappointment and fulfillment, and our challenge is to avoid dwelling in those emotions that provide an excuse to perform at less than our best. The longer we dwell there, the more they become habitual and define us to others along with who we believe ourselves to be. 

Questioning Disappointment

754-5What if we could learn to ask ourselves better questions when we are experiencing disappointment and possibly turn it from a lazy emotion into an inspiring and motivating opportunity? Here are some questions to consider, and then give thought to others that you could use.
  • What am I accomplishing by allowing myself to be or to stay disappointed in this situation?
  • Is the feeling of sadness or displeasure something I enjoy feeling? 
  • Could it be that just hoping this thing would happen was not enough and that I should have set a more defined goal with a plan to make sure it happened?
  • Did I set my expectations too high, and could I have been more effective by setting those expectations in stages?
  • Was I clear in communicating my expectations to those who were working to meet them?
  • Would it be better for me and others if I simply stop being disappointed and move on with a lesson learned?
  • What is the simplest thing I can do to get past this?
In the spirit of asking questions, let me ask you one more. How great would life be if you Googled the definition of disappointment and what you found was this: 
"Disappointment (noun) the feeling of inspiration and motivation caused by an ENERGIZED person discovering better ways to fulfill their hopes and expectations." I challenge you and me to make better use of that definition, and I guarantee we won't be disappointed.

Topics: Disappointment, Leadership

Written by Jim Paluch, President, JP Horizons, Inc.

Jim has helped thousands of individuals and organizations across North America excel over the past 30 years. He has written hundreds of articles and been published as an industry expert throughout those years dozens of times. Jim's ability to help audiences address obstacles and discover opportunities that lie between the current state they are in and the future state they desire to move toward is remarkable. His talent in facilitating a group and creating a collaborative effort where ideas and solutions can emerge to be implemented always produces inspiring results for everyone involved.

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