Disappointments from Within, from Without
By Doug Dickerson
Donald Mc Cullough in his book, The Pitfalls of Positive Thinking, shares some interesting insights from individuals considered persons of accomplishment, yet struggled with personal disappointments.
McCullough writes, “Alexander the Great conquered Persia, but broke down and wept because his troops were too exhausted to push on to India. Hugo Grotius, the father of modern international law, said at the last, "I have accomplished nothing worthwhile in my life." John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the U.S.--not a Lincoln, perhaps, but a decent leader--wrote in his diary: "My life has been spent in vain and idle aspirations, and in ceaseless rejected prayers that something would be the result of my existence beneficial to my species." Robert Louis Stevenson wrote words that continue to delight and enrich our lives, and yet what did he write for his epitaph? "Here lies one who meant well, who tried a little, and failed much." Cecil Rhodes opened up Africa and established an empire, but what were his dying words? "So little done, so much to do."
Let’s face it, we all experience disappointments both personally and professionally. On a professional level, how you deal with disappointment sets the tone for the office environment. Peter McWilliams writes in Life 101, “The simple solution for disappointment depression: Get up and get moving. Physically move. Do. Act. Get going.” How you accept disappointment determines your destination. Consider with me now disappointment from within, disappointment from without.
I think disappointment from within is the hardest form of disappointment to recover from. Usually it’s because of something we did. Either it was something we brought on ourselves or a poor choice in how we responded to something out of our control. I’ll talk more about the latter in a moment.
My encouragement to you with regard to personal disappointments is to forgive yourself; cut yourself some slack, get over yourself. Once you have identified the cause of your personal disappointment you are now empowered to make corrections. Identify what went wrong, accept responsibility for your part, make corrections, and get moving. Simply put, life is too short to wallow in self- pity.
In his book, Failing Forward, John Maxwell writes, “In contrast, someone who is unable to get over previous hurts and failures is held hostage by the past. The baggage he carries around makes it very difficult for him to move forward. In fact, in more than thirty years of working with people, I have yet to meet a successful person who continuously dwelled on his past difficulties.”
Life will be filled with disappointments and mistakes, but we must not allow them to own us or defeat us. Too often we try to justify our anger, our bitterness, and our grudge. In the end, it only hurts one person.
In his book, Attitudes that Attract Success, Wayne Cordeiro says, “Each of us will be surrounded with problems at times, and we will often find ourselves steeped in hot water. But remember that the event will soon pass. The event is temporary, but the effects of how we respond in the midst of the event will last much longer. A poor attitude in the midst of the storm can cause the storm to rage inside for a lifetime.”
Disappointments from without can be a little tricky. Our response is our choice. Let’s be honest- other people will disappoint us. The tempo you set as a leader will make or break things in the office environment.
It reminds me of the story by Michael Hodgin about two Kentucky racing stable owners who had developed a keen rivalry. Each spring they both entered a horse in a local steeplechase. One of them thought that having a professional rider might give his horse an edge in the race, so he hired a hot-shot jockey.
Well, the day of the race finally came, and as usual, their two horses were leading the race right down to the last fence. But the final fence was too much for both of the horses. Both of them fell, and both riders were thrown. But that didn’t stop the professional jockey. He remounted quickly and easily won the race.
When he got back to the stable, he found the horse owner fuming with rage. He really didn’t understand his behavior, because he won the race. So the jockey asked, “What’s the matter with you? I won the race, didn’t I?” The red-faced owner nodded, “Oh yes, you won the race. But you won it on the wrong horse!” Sometimes we cause our own disappointments and at times, others do. The point is; keep moving, don’t give up. Keep your attitude right.
In order to be successful in leading others, you have to successfully lead yourself. Choosing the right attitude when wronged or disappointed by others may be difficult, but in the end, your rise to the next level as a leader depends on it. Choose wisely.
© 2009 Doug Dickerson