Immunity from Disappointment

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The other day, someone asked me about how to be more emotionally resilient in the face of obstacles and failures.

While being completely immune to disappointment isn’t realistic, I do think it’s possible to reduce its impact on your life by 80% to 90%.

My working process is that all disappointment comes from… expectations.

If you expect nothing, you will never be disappointed.

I conceptually think of disappointment as follows:

Disappointment = Expectations – Reality

This isn’t the perfect analogy for my thought (assume there’s no such thing as negative numbers).

However, my point is that the more you expect and don’t get, the bigger the feeling of disappointment. If you don’t expect anything, it’s really hard to feel disappointed at all.

Now, the tricky part is how to be ambitious, set goals, and achieve… without also expecting to achieve those goals.

While it does seem like a paradox, it is doable. Let me explain.

The purpose of a goal is three-fold: 1) to develop a plan to reach it; 2) to work the plan; and 3) to actually reach it.

So, you still want to set goals and you still want to develop and execute plans to reach them. The bolder the goal, the more obstacles and unexpected discoveries you’ll uncover in Step 2: to work the plan.

In practice, you discover insights and new information along the way that results in revising your plan to account for information that wasn’t available at the start.

If you have very high expectations of your plan working “as is,” it can blind you to the useful feedback that comes only after you “accept” evidence that your plan is not working.

If you have no such expectations, you’ll dispassionately look at the results to date, quickly figure out where your thinking or execution went wrong, and then fix it.

Whether your “market” consists of customers, employers, your spouse, kids, or neighbors, what “feedback” is your market giving you that you’re ignoring because you’re overly wedded to your expectations?

It’s worth thinking about.

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