We come from diverse cultures and backgrounds, yet there is a universal experience that we all have to face in life…disappointment and discouragement. If we aren’t careful, this can become a vicious cycle. A negative event occurs and we become discouraged, it affects the quality of our decision-making, we become frustrated, the stress begins to take a toll on our attitude, we become gloomy and start to focus on the negative aspects of every situation, we become more discouraged, and the cycle continues. When you produce positive results, you will feel good about yourself. Sadly, the reverse is also true.
Most of the time, we go through life at a pretty even pace. Though we have a mix of good and bad days, they seem to balance out. Some days, it feels like everything that could go wrong does. Choices we have made appear to be wrong. We hurt people when we don’t intend to. We start to question ourselves and wonder if we really have the leadership skills and abilities to achieve our goals. We may even lose sight of our personal vision and the values that we strive to live by. What do we do when this happens?
Muscling Through Disappointments
Personal leaders often get knocked down but they don’t stay down. Instead, those with true leadership qualities look back and remember their dreams and ideals. The core of personal leadership inspires us to maintain our vision of a better self, family, organization, business or society.
Here are some things we can do to avoid “staying down”:
- Remember that every great achievement accomplished by the human race has been through hard struggle and great resistance.
- Draw strength from your family, friends, or mentors.
- Look at the biographies of great leaders or achievers in history.
- Prepare in advance for rough times by establishing your convictions and values. Know what you believe and why BEFORE you are tested.
- Reaffirm you personal vision.
- Don’t allow your feelings of disappointment today to cloud your trust in a better tomorrow.
Time Can Turn Failure into Success
Time turns many perceived failures into success. George Washington was the first great American general. However, early in the American Revolutionary War, few would have even considered him adequate, let alone a great leader. Retreat was common, and he lost virtually every battle and skirmish fought against the British troops. He and his men were demoralized, and at times it seemed that defeat was imminent. But these battles had just the right effect. The resolve of the British to keep the American colonies was slowly diminished with each battle. It turned out that winning the battle wasn’t as important as the resolve to continue—regardless of what appeared to be happening. Time transformed George Washington from a failure to a heroic leader. The same can be true in our lives.
We have to be prepared to patiently wait for our efforts to produce results we can see. In this culture, it is easy to do something and expect immediate results. We have to resist the urge to suspect failure when we don’t quickly see tangible results from our efforts. Remember, when you plant a seed, it sprouts underground long before you can see it grow. In the same way, we must be careful not to casually judge our efforts as failure. It is quite possible that not enough time has passed to accurately judge the results.
What We Can Learn From Mickey Mouse
When he first started out as a young, struggling cartoonist, Walt Disney was fired from a job. His boss was quoted as saying “he couldn’t draw and had no talent.” After much struggling and what seemed to be obvious failure, he finally found a client—a minister from a small church hired him to draw for their advertising. Because Walt was in such dire straits, the church allowed him to live in their mouse-infested garage. While there, he began to draw cartoons about a little mouse that scurried around his living space. He affectionately named the little guy Mickey Mouse.
From what appeared to be failure, Walt Disney had risen above misfortune and disappointment to become a smashing success. He had the perseverance, vision and perspective to push past the short-term obstacles in his path to achieve his mission. When you become discouraged and everything seems to be going wrong, remember to maintain a long-term perspective. Over time, effective leaders often rise out of adversity.
It is perfectly natural to experience disappointment. By maintaining your core values and vision, you can weather the “valleys” of discouragement or perceived failure and push forward to your destination—success!
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