Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

The Disappointment Trap

on May 20, 2014


If there’s one lesson I’ve learned too well over the last few years it’s how to avoid disappointment.

The journey of self-employment is a near constant cycle of hope and rejection. I can’t tell you how many times over these past four years I’ve been encouraged about something that has happened – an exciting conversation with a potential client, positive feedback from mentors about the direction and scope of what I was trying to achieve, actual interviews that I walked out of totally convinced I was going to get the gig – only to be disappointed when it didn’t come through. I learned, like so many people learn, to stop wanting whatever it is that I’m pursing so that if it doesn’t happen I won’t feel so devastated.

This seems like good advice, and you hear it a lot. I’ve reduced or eliminated a lot of pain over the years by teaching myself to not want things. That piece of business? Yes, it would be great, but you know, it’s probably not going to work out, so I’m not going to think about it. That trip? Yes, I’d love to go to that place on business, but I’m not holding my breath. These are the kinds of things I’ve said to myself to spare my feelings, and they work. I’ve gotten really good at not getting my hopes up.

There’s something else here to think about.  The advice about not getting your hopes up is usually accompanied by the assurance that if you don’t, when something good does come through, it’ll be a wonderful surprise. That has certainly happened – some things I wrote off did actually come together. You think I’d be more excited about it when it happens, but it’s anti-climactic: “Oh, wow, ok. I got it. Great! Now, what’s wrong with it?” I have so trained myself to be disappointed that when something good does happen I can’t allow myself to enjoy it.

I’ve decided that this is a big problem and I don’t want to live this way anymore.

This decision is, of course, loaded with emotional risk. If I start wanting things again I’m sure to be hurt and disappointed. It’s inevitable. But I think I know now the price I’ve paid for emotionally detaching myself from the pursuit of what I want – I’ve lost  a lot of my former passion. I’m having to work hard to muster the enthusiasm required to build a business, which is a recipe for disaster.

Now, understand, I’m not totally disengaged – anyone who knows me knows that. I’m just not inhabiting my life as fully as I am capable of doing, and by holding back I’m cheating myself and everyone around me. So I’ve decided to risk my heart again, to want things, knowing I will be hurt. Instead of trying to avoid disappointment, I’ve decided I’m going to go all in, all the time, and if I get disappointed I”ll just get better at accepting it and moving on.

Living is risk. Loving is risk. But if you don’t take the risk you most definitely won’t reap the reward. And the reward isn’t necessarily achieving the thing you want – it’s the joy that comes from knowing you’ve given everything you have pursing your desires. You leave it all on the field, on the stage, in the meeting, on the canvas, on the page. That’s what’s real. That’s where the love is. That’s where you’ll find me.

photo credit: Scott Ableman via photopin cc

One response to “The Disappointment Trap

  1. Carolyn Cook says:

    I just had to go back to this one; I think about it often. I have been pursuing the things I really want, and not necessarily getting them . . . but I still agree it’s work the pursuit. Love your thoughts, Amanda.


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