I’m a person of deep feeling, and as delighted as I can get about things, I can also spiral down into an emotional abyss when things aren’t going well. I have realized that I need a personal strategy to overcome life’s disappointments or I just don’t fare well.
Healthy people don’t ignore disappointments. We have to process them, although we have to be careful not to become fixated on them. I find that when I rehearse them, I spiral down. I suppose that’s normal for most people. I know it’s important to focus more on my wins than my disappointments. As someone once said, “You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it!”
I also try to remember that these things are usually cyclical. Good times will come around again. Henry Ward Beecher once said, “One’s best success comes after their greatest disappointments.” That has often been my personal experience…that after a real letdown, something of great magnitude happens. I often console myself through disappointment by reminding myself that it usually means something good is around the corner.
It also helps me to focus on these things:
It is beneficial to get quiet and still for at least 15 minutes and ask God to speak to me and give me a fresh perspective.
In her book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Haley Barton says, ““Psalm 46:10 tells us there is a kind of knowing that comes in silence and not in words-but first we must be still. The Hebrew word translated ‘Be still’ literally means “Let go of your grip.”
That’s what I need in times of disappointment…to let go of my grip, (as if I really had control of anything anyway!) and release it all to the Lord.
It is helpful to make a list of what’s going right, and then refer back to it when I get discouraged and am tempted to think the whole day or my whole life at the moment is terrible.
Worship music is the soundtrack of my life, and I particularly listen to soaking worship music. Julie True is my favorite artist. I made a long list (six hours worth), and keep it going in the background at all times. My playlist is public on Spotify and if you’d like to listen, here it is.
During times of great disappointment, it is not unusual for me to keep this list going 24/7.
When going through these times, I choose someone who is a positive force in my life/ministry to reach out to. A conversation and prayer tends to change the trajectory of my day.
If you don’t have this in your life, it’s super important to cultivate these relationships. Science-based research shows, it’s as important as diet and exercise. Yet many times, it isn’t a priority in people’s lives because they think they are too busy, or there aren’t any friend options available, and a host of other excuses.
It’s worth pressing through your excuses and obstacles to build relationships. Research from the Mayo Clinic shows that adults with strong social connections have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). In fact, studies have found that older adults who have meaningful relationships and social support are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.
Pursuing good books on overcoming disappointment is something that has always helped me. I read my Bible, and I also enjoy the insights of authors today on how to overcome hardships. One good read about bouncing back from disappointment is Harold Kushner’s book, Overcoming Life’s Disappointments. Depending on what’s going on, there are other books I recommend, such as Carey Nieuwhof’s book, Didn’t See It Coming. If you’re struggling with disappointment in leadership and facing disillusionment and cynicism, that’s the book for you! I hope to write a book myself someday on this topic.
If you’re going through a hard time today, stay focused and remember, that every hardship has an expiration date. It’s not forever.