How to Deal With Disappointment and Discouragement

Have you ever had one of those days (or weeks)? Everything seems to go wrong and much like in the cartoons, a rain cloud hangs over your head wherever you go. We all come from different backgrounds and our leadership qualities vary greatly, but there is something we all have in common—discouragement and disappointment.

At times we are disappointed in ourselves or others who have let us down. Ideas fall flat, situations don’t play out the way we want them to, and goals are not achieved. Disappointment is inevitable from time to time. This brings us down, which can affect the quality of our decisions if we aren't careful. While the old parable that “people who produce good results feel good about themselves,” the opposite is true as well.

Even great leaders like Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill struggled with depression and periods of despondency during difficult periods of their lives. While discouragement and even depression are normal human traits, it is important that we don’t let them get the best of us. So how can you avoid getting into a funk when everything seems to be going wrong? Is there anything we can do to prepare for life’s valleys?

  1. Understand that these difficult periods are natural and beneficial if we keep them in perspective.

  2. Focus on the long-term instead of the short-term. Short-term “fixes” are often used to make ourselves feel better without regard to the bigger picture.

  3. Remind yourself that what we are feeling is short-term. As painful or embarrassing as it is, it will eventually pass.

  4. Keep the proper perspective. Accept the situation at hand knowing that it will soon change.

  5. Review your personal mission statement to be sure that your present actions are in line with your values and goals.

  6. Seek direction and comfort in your moral, religious, or ethical foundation.

  7. Ask yourself, “What do I believe my purpose is?” You have two choices. If you feel you are a victim of time or chance, then all of your effort and struggle is essentially worthless. If you believe that the right road eventually leads to the right destination and that your actions and hard work are not in vain, you can draw comfort and confidence knowing that you are still maintaining your values.

  8. Remember that you are not alone. EVERYONE slips up or falls now and then. Shattered dreams happen to all. There are very few people in the world who have not suffered with major problems or personal doubt.

  9. To win, it doesn't matter how many times you go down;  it only matters if you stay down.

  10. Know that all great achievements have met with struggle and great resistance.

  11. Draw comfort and support from family, friends, co-workers, and even stories of great historical leaders.

To make it through the difficult times, it is important to prepare yourself during the “calm” periods by defining and solidifying your personal goals and values. As a leader, recognize that these storms that we all go through prod us to examine who we are and what is most important to us. It challenges our beliefs, values, and purpose in life. These difficult periods are what make us wiser, stronger, and even better able to lead. When you are going through difficult trials, keep your eye on the long-term prize. The rain will eventually stop! Join the ranks of great leaders throughout history who have suffered and struggled, only to prevail and do great things.

Leadership Excellence is committed to providing leadership coaching and team development through our many professional services, leadership webinars, and on-site leadership seminars in Medina and Cleveland,Ohio. Contact us to find out how we can help develop better leaders in your organization.