Overcoming Disappointment, Delay, and Distraction

Squashed hopes. Rejection. Betrayal. There are scores of words that describe why people give up on their dreams and settle.  Most of them fall under the three Ds. Meet Disappointment, Delay and Distraction. Oh, you already know each another? Everybody has met them. Some people know them intimately.

Disappointment starts early. We learn as kids that life isn’t fair. When we don’t make the team, don’t get invited to the party, get a low grade or become the target for merciless “teasing”, the negative self-talk dialogue begins. Over time, it’s common to build a protective shell. By the time we make it to adulthood, we might think we’ve matured, when perhaps all we’ve done is insulated ourselves with an emotional suit of armor. It serves to protect the heart from incoming darts, but unfortunately, it also dams up the outflow of our gifts and creative expression. Thoreau penned,“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.” That’s what stagnation feels like. Not a good way to live.

Delay – Americans are notorious for being impatient. After all, who likes waiting rooms? From sitting in traffic to awaiting test results, people display their frustration with delays in degrees ranging from resignation to rage.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, in a study of people under the age of 35, reported on the  dangers of their hyper-connected lives, using words that sound like a prescription drug warning: “Negative effects include a need for instant gratification and loss of patience.”  Whatever happened to the thought that patience is a virtue?

The reality is, most projects take longer than we think. The realization of goals and dreams can be delayed for years, or even decades. It’s tough to keep the faith through extended delay.

Distraction –
There has never been a time in history when Infobesity was an epidemic. Until now. Do you know someone who leaves the detritus of unfinished projects strewn around like a child who never learned to put away their toys?  We all do – and sometimes it’s that person in the mirror. I’ve suffered from BSOS myself. (That’s Bright Shiny Object Syndrome – or the tendency to hop from one appealing thing to the next.)

Unfinished business can be daunting and downright annoying.  The 10,000 hour phenomenon discussed by Malcolm Gladwell in The Outlier is not something the fainthearted will ever experience.

Overcoming Disappointment, Delay and Distraction

The good news is, we are made to win and engineered to overcome obstacles.

You can choose to exchange the Big Three Ds for As. Meet the A Team: Attitude, Action and Attraction.

Attitude – Disciplining disappointment by re-framing the experience is not just a psychological trick, it’s a leadership skill.  Research in positive psychology indicates that the ability to perceive stress as a challenge rather than a negative factor will contribute to 90% of your happiness and 75% of your success.

Experience is not what happens to you;
it’s what you do with what happens to you.
~Aldous Huxley

Action – Since life is full of unexpected delays, learning to look for alternatives is key.  There is something to be said for patience and deliberation, but there is time for action.  I confess to being a “Ready, Fire, Aim” personality rather than one who overthinks things but paralysis by analysis is real. Overwhelmed people tend to stop. If you need help getting out of the doldrums, ask for it! The detours of life can lead us through unimaginably beautiful territory.

Attraction – Strong goals will keep you from wandering off and getting lost in a world of distraction. Even if you are temporarily side-tracked, clearly defined goals accompanied by a system of accountability will keep you moving in the right direction.

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