Read This: You Won’t be Disappointed

None of us can escape disappointments.  We all have them.  We all must learn to cope with them.
But spare a thought for those crushed under the gaze and expectation of the global public.  This week, amongst others, Scott Dixon, Novak Djokovic, and most of Liverpool.

Dixon, high-achieving Kiwi racing driver, led the Indy 500 for 175 of the 200 laps before copping a ‘pit violation’ (he entered pit lane about one mph over the allowed speed) and being penalised to do an extra ‘drive-through’ – resulting in his demotion from 1st to back of the field, in front of more than 300,000 people, and five million more on TV.  Dixon has had crushingly bad luck previously in this race, so the disappointment was even greater for him.
“It’s just heartbreaking, to be honest,” Dixon told the millions afterwards.

I don’t need to go into Liverpool’s heart-stopping loss to Real Madrid, or Djokovic’s to Rafael Nadal, because this piece is about day-to-day disappointments that we mere mortals endure.  We feel ours just as much as the stars do, and we’re usually left to suffer alone in our own wounded headspace.  As “heart-breaking” suggests, your heart aches, you can feel it as a physical thing.  A failed job interview, a rejection when asking someone for a date, a positive Covid test on the eve of a long-awaited event, a rejection from an art curator or book publisher, losing to your grandson at chess or arm-wrestling …  Even just waking up not feeling well.  So many things, big and small, result in disappointment, and the subsequent inner groanings just exacerbate our blues …

What can you do, eh?  There’s not much.  You brood. You can reflect on it wryly, laugh at yourself a little and go eat something unhealthy. Or you can seek balance by thinking of the good things in life, something you’re thankful for, to force the disappointment into perspective.

Any other suggestions?

Usually there’s a failure of some kind involved – certainly a failure of expectations. I like Winston Churchill’s attitude:

(Actually, a look at Churchill’s response to his disastrous 1915 Gallipoli assault is hugely instructional.  See this Harvard Business Review article, for example.)

For mine, two fundamental attitudes of heart have helped me deal with disappointments and other failures and setbacks: accept, and redeem.

  • Accept: A thoroughly reliable go-to in such times is the so-called Serenity Prayer, attributed variously (but erroneously) to Thomas Aquinas, Cicero, Augustine, Francis of Assisi and Thomas More.  No, it was actually a more recent American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr: God, grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I cannot, and wisdom to know the difference.  This philosophy has carried me many a time.
  • Redeem:  Redeem the moment!  (Redeem means to buy back, even, to set free from captivity.)  Any low moment can be redeemed.  Any failure or setback … in some creative way.  One tries to look the disappointment or failure in the face and see if some benefit can be found, a silver lining.  Redemption of some kind!

Then, turn your back on it and move forward. As, undoubtedly, will Dixon, Djokovic and the LFC.
Build a bridge and get over it!

Disillusionment, despair, defeat and degrading self-pity do not mend disappointment.  Going onward does … (V. Raymond Edman in The Disciplines of Life).

Ken F

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