Overcoming Discouragement

Life is full of failures, rejection and more than a fair share of discouragement. I believe that the difference in how persistent people are often comes down to how they handle the discouragement that comes from the same situation. While some people can immediately brush themselves off, others can enter a negative cycle of thoughts that persists for weeks, months or even years.

How you handle discouragement affects your ability to take new risks and chances that could have huge benefits. The root word of discouragement is courage so it should only make sense that the feelings associated with failure and rejection often try to deal a blow to your inner source of courage. Unfortunately, these emotions can cripple you to the point where you avoid taking small risks that have huge potential rewards.

Negative thought cycles, whether it is in the form of depression, discouragement, hatred or self-loathing tend to spiral out of control so what was originally only a minor trigger becomes inflated into a major upset. Quickly correcting this negative thought cycle before it gets out of hand is critical to ensure you can rebound back to success. So how can you handle discouragement so it doesn’t consume you?

Don’t Analyze

The time to analyze what has just happened is never when you are in a negative state. Most people falsely assume that rational analysis is the same whether you are in a good or bad mood. Logic is logic, right? This error in judgement is why most people have so much trouble escaping that negative cycle of thoughts. Rational judgement gets corrupted by emotion very easily, so what seems like a logical flow of thought is completely ridiculous from an outside perspective. Emotion and rational thought are too intertwined to be completely separated.

When you get turned down for a date, promotion or business opportunity it can be very tempting to start trying to analyze what went wrong. This of course spins into self talk that seems rational but is purely emotional. Immediately after a discouraging failure is not the time to devote self-talk to it. Analysis is important but it must come from a neutral viewpoint that can’t be attained while you still have negative feelings.

Create an Immediate Success

What do you tend to do when you feel down? Sit in front of the television? Eat ice-cream and watch movies? Go to bed? Although these are all viable strategies for handling stress, they often just temporarily bring you up to a neutral point of view. A better tactic is to find something you know you can be successful at and do it right away. By creating a tiny, even superficial, success you can balance out the negative feelings associated with your discouragement.

My favorite strategy is to immediately exercise after a discouraging event. Not only does exercising increase energy and release endorphin which makes you feel better, but by successfully completing my workout I can stop negative cycles of thought quickly. Exercising is a good strategy, but you can use any activity that you feel you can be successful at.

After you create the immediate success, you need to continue this approach until you feel you have stabilized the negative thought cycle. If you start feeling negative about your discouraging situation a few hours after your situation, redo this step to regain your balance.

Only once you feel fairly positive and stable about your self image and you can look back at the discouraging event from an emotionally neutral standpoint should you try to analyze what went wrong and how to improve it for next time. Analysis and review is important but it is completely worthless if it just another means for self-pity and negative thoughts. Keep in mind that the time necessary to recover from a discouraging situation varies for each person and for each event. Some people who aren’t used to discouragement will require longer periods to recover as will certain events that are particularly demoralizing.

Reward Attempts

Whenever you make strives outside your comfort zone and past barriers you need to reward yourself regardless of whether the external environment does so. If you are just starting out as a salesman and you have to make a few cold calls, reward yourself for mustering up the confidence to make the attempt even if they completely reject your offer. If you are shy and you ask someone for a date and they give you the cold shoulder, you need to reward yourself for making the attempt.

Whenever you take steps outside your past limitations, either in conquering your fears, improving your skills or increasing your own willpower you must recognize and reward that victory even if the rest of the world won’t. Ultimately, inner qualities such as courage, discipline and skill will create a greater impact on your life than the success or failure of one encounter. Even if this encounter is big like the failure of a business, you need to recognize that failure as a positive step in your own growth and celebrate it like you would any external success. Your partners may think your crazy for breaking out the champagne when your company doesn’t make it, but you need to reward yourself for making the attempt.

Above all these other strategies the most important thing in improving your ability to handle disappointment and discouragement is to face more of it. Taking more risks and getting yourself a little bruised from all of life’s stumbles is the only way you can build the emotional muscle to handle more of them. When you reward attempts even when they aren’t successful you are signaling to your brain that taking there is value in attempting something that isn’t attached to a particular outcome.

Whether it is struggling to make sales, asking for a date or even the daily disappointment from the outside world, everyone faces discouragement. How you handle that discouragement will ultimately make the difference between a life of broken dreams and misery and one where every discouraging attempt makes you stronger.


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