Dealing with Disappointment

The highlight reel. The wins. The success and achievements. That’s what I want to share. I like when life is looking up and things are going my way. Not today.

I have a precocious nine-year-old daughter. She is smart, witty, independent and fiercely competitive at martial arts. I can brag, because I can’t take much credit for any of the above. Piper is the youngest of four. The space between each kid only being about eighteen months to two years. By the time baby girl came along I was hip deep and there wasn’t much parenting Piper.

This past weekend my determined girl competed in her craft. She has been esteemed in her class. Most things comes easy for this one. Not today. The intense pressure of a first time competition among other champions got the best of her. She buckled. In adult terms, she failed. She held her head high until we exited the building. Then a burst of tears and a loud cry, “I’m so mad at myself.” Displeased with her performance and disheartened by her disappointment, a feeling I know all too well. I get it. I get her. It was all I could do to NOT tell her the story I have often told myself. Instead, I grabbed her blubbering sweet cheeks and looked her square in the face to tell her the truth about disappointment.

For the last few years I have wrestled with a sense of loss and not quite good enough, incessantly. Whether it be a business goal I didn’t reach, or a ministry expectation unfulfilled. I have found disappointment to be transformative. It’s actually been the catalyst to any achievement or hope I’ve found on the other side. The victory is won when I don’t stop because I don’t get my way. I want to share just two things I shared with Piper that will hopefully help you navigate disappointment.

Count it All joy.

This seems counter intuitive, because it is. Who’s happy about failure. I’ve grown into this one. Which makes sense. The scripture tells us we can consider the hard things good things because they grow us up.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

This piece of the process is possibly hardest for me. It requires that I actually sit in the disappointment long enough to be aware of what I’m actually feeling. And it’s okay to cry. That’s part of owning the moment. Delayed feeling, delays healing. Once we accept it we can move through it. Then you can count in joy. Somewhere in the midst of the pit in your gut or the sinking in your heart there is something you can be proud of.

Piper took a big risk at nine years old walking into a competition held in a Los Angeles convention center. She braved the unknown when she said yes to putting her abilities, hard work and determination on a gym room floor for three unfamiliar adults to judge. She did her best. The risk you took, the attempt you made, the fear you walked through all put you one step further to discovering what you want. More importantly, one step closer to building the person you were meant to become.

Change perspective.

When something doesn’t go our way we often are consumed by the horrible feelings this produces. You can concentrate on your failures or you can focus on your future. You cannot do both at the same time. After counting it joy you must develop a conviction that is stronger than your condition. You must be so anchored to your belief and the hope of possibility that it drives you through the present circumstance. That often requires a shift in perspective. What you dwell on will drown you. So recognize the failing for what it is. In Piper’s case she messed up and didn’t win. So you didn’t get the promotion. You didn’t get published. You didn’t make the cut. Adversity doesn’t stop you from advancing. If you set your attention on what was missing, what you can learn from that then you can move forward. Looking up at the possibility of that setback catalyzing your comeback determines your future advancement.

Piper’s Sensei sent an email to all competitors today. I want to leave you with his final thoughts.

“For those of you who won, congratulations. You have successfully continued a long tradition of winning and excellence. Now let me say this. You will not always win! That is a one hundred percent guarantee. As a matter of fact, you lose way more than you will win. Losing is fuel. Winning is fuel. Everything is fuel!”