The other day I heard discouragement knocking at my door. It was tempting to let it in, but after grabbing the doorknob I stopped myself. I knew from experience it wouldn’t bring anything good with it. So, instead of opening the door, I locked it and backed away.
Then, I spent some time wondering what had brought it here the first place. It didn’t take long to figure it out. Discouragement, I quickly realized, always comes from being disappointed by unmet expectations.
Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. I had been busy working away with the belief “if I do this thing, then I will get this desired result.” Then, when I didn’t get the result I wanted, discouragement was dispatched to my door.
Even though I didn’t let it in, I could hear its lament. It wanted me to believe my goal was hopeless. It wanted me to agree since I didn’t get the result I wanted today, I would never, ever, ever succeed in accomplishing what I hoped to accomplish.
Some people will tell you the cure for discouragement is to rid yourself of expectations completely. Others will tell you the trick is to always expect the worst – that way, you’ll never be disappointed. Frankly, I don’t care for either option.
We can’t stop expecting things. It’s only normal to expect if we eat we will satisfy our hunger, if we sleep we will be rested, and if we work for someone we will be paid our wages.
Expecting the worst to avoid discouragement doesn’t make sense either. It’s like saying, “I’m going to anticipate the negative so when the negative comes I won’t experience negative feelings.” Since when does focusing on the negative bring anything positive? Since never, that’s when!
I know expectations can get us in trouble, but having expectations is not the problem. It is the nature of the expectations that are the issue. Perhaps the real cure for discouragement is to stop pinning our hopes on one particular outcome, and to pin it instead on the expectation we will learn and grow from every experience.
After all, we are not in control of the outcome. The only thing we can control is how we will respond to the lessons life brings. And believe me, it will bring plenty of them!
If we are truly open to being teachable, there will always be something we can learn. Every activity, every endeavor, every step we take to move closer to our dreams has within it the seeds of a great learning. If that is our expectation, we will never be discouraged!
Discouragement can even do us a service. Although I’ve always seen it as a “bad” thing, maybe it’s not always bad. Maybe when it shows up, it’s a clue we need to adjust our course. After all, if we never felt discouraged, we might just keep going and going – only to discover we are going in the wrong direction!
When we look at it this way, discouragement can be a sign we need to rethink what we are doing and why we are doing it. It can help us adjust our motive or our objective or our approach. But it can only help us from outside the door.
If we let it in, it won’t be any help at all. A pity party will quickly ensue, stopping all forward movement. And once the party is in full swing it will take a lot more effort to kick everyone out, clean up the mess, and get back on track.
So next time discouragement comes knocking at your door, acknowledge it – but don’t invite it in. Ask yourself what outcome you didn’t get that you were expecting to get. Then let go of the outcome you wanted, embrace reality instead of frustration, and ask yourself what you can learn from the outcome you received.
Discouragement doesn’t need to send you headlong into a pit of despair. If you keep the door locked tight, the tapping on the door just might serve as a helpful course correction. In fact, it may even bring all the best you had hoped for over the threshold and into your life.
“Defeat should never be a source of discouragement, but rather a fresh stimulus.” ~ Robert South