2 Ways to Prevent Discouragement
I often share success stories in my presentations and writing. They illustrate my point and make the skills and concepts easier to remember. Plus, they usually make me look pretty good! But you rarely get the whole story. The “happy ending” is never actually the end.
- The woman who overcame her nervousness in job interviews and landed a great job … soon after discovered that the new company culture was not a great fit.
- The man who developed the confidence to finally quit his job and start his own business … struggled mightily the first year from the isolation in being solo.
- The woman who honed her communication skills and knocked her big presentation out of the park, which in turn led to a promotion … faced sexism as the highest-ranking woman in the company.
It can be discouraging to finally get what you want and discover it’s not the panacea you’d hoped for. You get a better job and it comes with a difficult coworker. You lose weight and get a slower metabolism. You save up to buy a new car and its maintenance costs you an arm and a leg. How do you keep from getting disheartened? You’ve worked hard and finally achieved exactly what you’ve been shooting for! And yet… your improved situation seems to come with its own set of problems. Ugh!
Here are two things you can do to stave off the let-down that sometimes comes when you get what you want:
1) Stop looking for fixes. Instead, shoot for progress.
It’s way less sexy, I know, to look for improvement instead of a magic bullet. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this ONE THING will FIX EVERYTHING. But nothing fixes everything. Love? Money? A successful career? All wonderful things, but they can bring their own complications. For example, the more money you make, the more pressed for time you automatically feel. How whacked is that?
Life doesn’t need to be “fixed.” It just is. It’s beautiful and messy and chaotic and wonderful and hard. And it always will be.
You don’t need to “fix” your life, but you certainly can enhance it. There are a million little ways you can change your life that will add up to a transformation over time—little ways you can deepen your relationships, make (or keep) more money, feel more comfortable in your own skin, grow in confidence, step forward in your career, or grow in strength. Little by little, you can add comfort, power, and joy to your life.
When you hope for “better,” instead of “perfect,” you decrease disappointment and increase your capacity for gratitude. The small wins mean more. You feel happier and more successful.
2) View the new problems as an upgrade.
One key to building a happier life is to improve the quality of your problems. You’ll always have them. But not all troubles are created equal.
Not having quite enough money saved up for the big vacation you’d hoped for this summer is a better problem than having a giant unexpected bill drop in your lap. And that’s a better problem than wondering how you’ll make rent.
This applies to any area of your life. Somehow, we think that when we “level up” in life, it should lead to greater ease (as if an easy, stress-free life would actually make you happy). That’s not the way it works in video games… and not in real life, either. When you’re working toward your goals, improving your skills, and moving forward, your problems “level up,” too. The problems don’t go away, but they are better problems to have.
That’s good news! Even better, what you learned when dealing with the crappy problems will still help you when you’re facing “better” problems. The same skills you used to overcome shyness at networking events will help when you have to give a presentation. The emotional intelligence you gain from your relationship with a sensitive coworker will help you lead a team. Learning how to deliver a negative performance review will help when you have to fire someone. Stress, anxiety, and difficult situations (and people!) don’t disappear, but your capacity to deal with them grows. The little things that used to stymie you hardly even register now. The things that feel overwhelming now will someday become little things, too.
The clients I mentioned experienced this. The woman whose new job didn’t fit her felt capable of going out and finding another new job. The man who was lonely as a solo had the confidence to meet people at networking events and hire an assistant. The woman who faced sexism began a woman’s group in her company. All wonderful outcomes… that will lead to new problems… and new wonderful outcomes.
Spiral up. Keep learning and growing, improving your communication, and building confidence. Accept that life will never be perfect, but it certainly can be better. And you can make “better” happen.