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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

Disappointment Sucks. So, Now What?

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Yesterday I found what is already one of my all time favorite New Yorker cartoons. I pulled the current issue out of the mailbox, started flipping through it and saw the classic guy on a therapist’s couch. The caption was “I did seize the day. But then it seized me back and used some kind of jujitsu move to flip me on my ass.”

I laughed out loud as I read it because I had just spent the day getting back up after getting flipped on my ass. Early in the morning, I’d gotten some critical feedback I didn’t expect on an important project. I was really disappointed. Disappointed with my performance, disappointed with my misperception and disappointed with the recognition that something that I thought was working well actually wasn’t.

Disappointment is a fact of life. Unless you’re on Facebook where, unless a pet or a relative has died, everything is always sunny, in real world land, disappointment happens.

Disappointment sucks. It can bring you down. As a leader, you can’t afford to stay there very long. You’ve got to get back up and bring everyone else along with you.

How do you do it? Here are four steps that may work for you (And by you, I mean me. I’m working on taking my own advice.) :

Go for a walk – Seriously, go take a walk. Do something physical. Get out of your head before you drive yourself into a mental ditch of woe. Shake it off. Don’t sit there and dwell on it

Quit wishing – “I wish I’d known then what I know now. I wish I had done this or that differently.” Yeah, all of that would have been great, but you didn’t. Notice that all of that is past tense? That tells you something. It tells you that you can’t change what’s already happened. Quit wishing.

Talk it out with a trusted advisor – There’s a reason that talk therapy has been around so long – it helps. You don’t have to go to a therapist when you experience a disappointment, but you should talk about it with someone you trust. Doing so has at least two benefits. It helps you work through the emotional curve and identify the lessons learned as you do.

Get back on your horse and ride – Now we’re talking present and future tense. What can you do now or in the near future to recover or repair whatever can be recovered or repaired? What have you learned from this experience that teaches you what to change to get better outcomes in the future? This is where the upside comes from. The opposite of disappointment is resilience. (TWEET THIS) That’s where leaders live. Get back on your horse.

Speaking of therapy, writing this post has been therapeutic for me. Thanks for reading this far and joining in. What about you? What was useful here? What do you do to move past disappointment?

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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