You’re not a toddler anymore. Time to love your disappointment.
Here’s my wish for you for the new year:
This year, I hope you miss out on something that you really want. I hope you get really excited for something and then it never comes through. I hope it stings. I hope it makes you feel so bummed that you wake up into a dull sadness before you can even remember what’s wrong.
(Oh-oh. Looks like Jon’s got drunk and is mistaking his blog readership for his girlfriend from High School again.)
No, I’m serious. Maybe I don’t wish that it happens to you this year, and I certainly don’t wish it will happen to you every year, but I do hope at some point you know the depths of disappointment.
Because I’m not sure you’ll be able to achieve really amazing things without it.
Now this isn’t just another “highs with the lows” idea. Disappointment is different. Disappointment is one of the ways we understand what it is we truly want.
Most of us spend our lives drifting. We have some idea of what we want, but not many of us take the time to lock it down – to clearly articulate it and hold a clear picture of it in our mind.
(Though on the road to success, perhaps nothing is so important.)
And if we are just drifting along with only vague ideas about what we truly want, sudden disappointment can come as a great teacher.
We miss out on a deal that was going to be our ticket. We miss out on a new job that sounded so much more exciting that our current one. Someone decides that they would just prefer the romantic company of someone else.
In these moments our hearts are stripped raw. They’re fully alive. The dull signals we normally get (muffled through the comforts of routine, heavy foods and tv) are replaced by intensity – the needle flapping wildly all over the red.
Here, in this moment, is a chance to get a full-bandwidth read on what it is our heart really wants. We don’t have to find a hill-top meditation spot to quietly tune in with ourselves. It’s coming in loud and clear. Almost too loud.
And so what’s there if we really listen? So we missed out on a job? What is it that we’re upset about missing out on? Was it the money? Was it a job that was more creatively exciting? Was it about getting out of this toxic cubicle farm and seeing more sun?
We’re able to get a clear read on what we really want. With that, we can start building strategies to make ourselves happier, right here and now. If it’s money, we can get some more mentoring to fast-track our investments. If it’s more sun, talk to the boss about working a day from home in your lovely sun room.
Whatever. You get my point. When you have a clearer understanding of what it is you truly want, you can get more strategic about calling it into your life.
And really, there isn’t anything that a little sustained effort can’t achieve.
Disappointment then is a great teacher. Welcome him in and break open the nice packet of biscuits you have been saving for just this occasion.
But of course most of us don’t do this.
Most of us are running the distraction sub-routine we learnt when we were kids. Distract. Forget. Hope it goes away.
“Distraction” is an important part of every parents tool-kit. You’re crying because mummy won’t let you play with her I-phone. But look, here’s a set of keys.
It works with young kids (from 2 to about 55) because they’re easily distracted, and because their emotions are so off the hook. It’d be draining if you tried to address every emotional turn. Sometimes it’s easier to distract them with something else and just go back to your gin and tonic.
Trouble is, we never grow out of this.
We learn that the appropriate response to hurt, and to disappointment in particular, is “not to dwell on it”. Don’t give your feelings any attention. Focus your thoughts somewhere else, and eventually they’ll go away.
“Oh look, another Olympics.”
You miss out on a job, don’t worry about it. Just pretend like it never happened. Stiff upper lip chaps.
Maybe that has a place when you’re a toddler, but as an adult, you’re creating an emotionally deadened life for yourself. What’s worse, you’re missing an important opportunity to see in detail what really excites your heart.
And life is just fun when you’re on a journey of figuring out what excites your heart, and then figuring out ways to make it happen.
I mean, isn’t that what we’re trying to do here? Everyone here who is looking for financial freedom and a more fulfilling life? We’re following the call of our hearts.
So when it calls, even if it’s sobbing with disappointment, just promise me you’ll answer.
Ok, maybe this is my wish for you this year.
Has disappointment ever taught you anything?