It’s almost Thanksgiving and, at TTC, we often like to underscore the gratitude season by seeking balance and appreciation in our professional lives. This month, we are going to map our way to thankfulness by cutting out the static and zeroing in on the things that are working well and staying steady, no matter how small.
When it comes to life, grief, disappointment, and fear can strike at any time: the unexpected illness of a loved one, being passed over for a promotion or a project not going the way we hoped. Whatever its source, taking a measured approach to managing disappointment can foster personal and professional growth and push you to a place of gratitude.
First, manage your expectations
A few years ago, the Harvard Business Review HBR published a list of strategies for coping with work-related disappointment. They urged readers to arm themselves against the lingering effects of disappointment by first managing their expectations that any situation will be free of it. Even when something goes as planned, we might not feel as satisfied by the experience as we hoped.
Though disappointment is sometimes unavoidable, the worst thing that can happen is that it festers, morphing into resentment and apathy. “When we catch ourselves thinking negatively,” HBR advised, “we should redirect our energy and focus on positive solutions.” While it might be difficult to let go of a disappointing experience, not letting go of it creates unnecessary stress and makes it harder to find forward momentum. Keep in mind that disappointment is an occasion to build resilience and widen perspectives. It can even help you make better and more informed decisions in the future. Rally around your long-term goals. Though this particular situation did not end up as planned, it is not a derailment. You might simply need to reframe your path.
Bring the growth mindset to the front
Shape shift your thinking! Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck developed the notion of a growth mindset which is centered on the belief that talent can be improved over time. People with a growth mindset look for opportunities to develop their talent through hard work and feedback, both good and bad. A fixed mindset, on the other hand, leans into feelings of inferiority and the belief that each of us has only a certain capacity for success or a finite level of intelligence. People with a fixed mindset begin to doubt their abilities compared to those around them. If you notice others are finding greater success, don’t slip into insecurity. Use your growth mindset to find inspiration in the steps they’ve taken. Examine their experience and network as possible factors.
Focus on the positive
Navigating a challenge or obstacle is a powerful opportunity to demonstrate your leadership capacity. Start with being candid about your disappointment and what needs your attention. Consider setting measurable goals to gain more experience in a specific area, better your knowledge or improve your outlook. Shift your language so that you talk about what has happened with positivity and persistence. Make sure those around you understand your awareness of why this has happened and be sure to convey your openness to grow from the experience. Let them know that this experience has motivated you.
Now, welcome gratitude
Seek out the positives. Think about the things that are solid at the moment. What is going well? Where are the bright spots? What holds steady even as the situation evolves? Lean into your successes, no matter how small, as you prepare to make your next move. This is your opportunity to launch a new and grow.
If you’re finding it hard to access gratitude in your current situation, it might help to write down your next moves. Eventually, you will probably be able to see why something turned out the way it did but, until that happens, here are some productive steps to take:
- Consider your expectations. Do they need to be adjusted? Are you being too hard on yourself or others? Are you being unrealistic?
- Open up to a friend or mentor. It can help to seek emotional support. Try to talk to someone who isn’t directly related to the issue or in your office.
- Do something different. Map out a new project and set goals in another area. Taking some time away might be refreshing.
- Examine what is getting in the way of your contentment. What, specifically, is causing you unease? Is it something temporary? Is it in your control? Can you think of a different perspective on it?
- Sit down with your supervisor. If you are hoping to achieve something different, talk to your manager. Don’t be grim, choose positive and energetic language so they understand your genuineness.