Setbacks and disappointment

So, the downside of this trying malarkey is of course that trying often leads straight to failure. Trying, as we all know, is in fact the first step towards failure.


And when what you’re trying to do is something of a life-long project (feeling better, being a better person) then failure is of course downright inevitable. Every day cannot be a better day than the one before. Every step cannot be a step forward. So, it seems this is another aspect that will have to be dealt with. But how?

“Plant expectations – reap disappointments” in all honour, but how do you ever do anything without expectations? How do you work on trying to be better and feel better if you don’t have the expectation that what you’re doing will help? And when it seems to help, when you have actually managed to handle a situation in a better and more productive way than previously because of the work you’re doing, then how do you avoid being devastated when the next time rolls around, the same type of situation, and this time over you completely botch it? I thought I had this shit down! What gives? Did I get cocky? Overrate my own abilities, what? So, here are my thoughts to try to make this better:

1) Two steps forward, one step back… Failure implies trying, so at least I’m trying! I’m doing something. I’m not just giving up. That seems comforting to me. Feels better than to feel crappy and not try to do anything about it. Keep taking steps, and the odds are good that eventually you’ll get where you’re trying to go. Take no steps and, well. You’re almost guaranteed not to get there.

2) Every day is not a good day. There can be reasons you’re not at the top of your emotional game on any given day. Maybe you’re stressed about something. Maybe it’s just one of those days. This is okay. Sometimes you have to be gentle with yourself and forgive yourself. Just like you feel better if you forgive others for disappointing you, you’ll feel a whole lot better if you forgive yourself for disappointing you.

3) Try to see it as a learning experience. Every exposure to the situation that upsets me gives me a chance to practice not getting upset. And even if I failed spectacularly this time, next time will be a chance to succeed. It sounds over-optimistic and sappy, but logically, it is true. You can’t succeed at something that you never have to deal with.

Today, I read an article about this researcher who had written a book about why people like playing video games when they keep failing (boss fights, platform jumps etc.) Obviously, people like a challenge. My thought is that the more times you have to retry that boss fight, the more pissed off and frustrated you get, the better it feels and the more of a kick you get when you finally succeed. So maybe failing isn’t always bad, if you can see it as building towards a more satisfying pay-off? That thought actually makes me feel a little better!


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