Dealing with Disappointment in a Business

Disappointed female business owner at computer

All business owners deal with disappointment

Failure, frustration and disappointment are very familiar concepts to small business owners. Our websites break. Our new-and-improved product doesn’t sell. Or our spouse is hospitalized and we miss an important deadline. Disappointment is a part of life.

Disappointment is the downside of planning

Let’s be honest. Planning can be exhilarating. Creating a strategic plan on paper — or projecting sales on a spreadsheet — sets up expectations for success. Unfortunately, the downside of planning is disappointment.

Once we create a plan, we believe that we will reach the desired results. Tripling our social media advertising budget, doubling down on content, or making five sales calls a day doesn’t mean we’ll meet our sales goals. While putting forth effort is positive, goal-setting is not fortune-telling and even the most intense work does not guarantee the desired results.

9 ways to move beyond disappointment

In addition to running my business, I’ve been dealing with disappointment surrounding my health. It turned out I have very arthritic knees that required a total knee replacement in November 2018. The (difficult) recovery process has taught me many lessons about dealing with disappointment that can be applied to dealing with disappointment in business.

  1. Stop blaming yourself. Unfortunately we don’t have the benefit of hindsight until we see a problem. Choosing a poor website host – or not anticipating a medical situation – are things you can’t control. Even if you did make a poor decision, beating yourself up does not make it better.
  2. Examine your disappointment. I was describing my mood as being “a funk” which was not very helpful. Once I realized that I was disappointed, I started to ask myself questions. Why am I disappointed? What is bothering me the most? What could I be doing differently?
  3. Look for lessons. It has not been easy to recognize the level of arthritis in my body. However this is an opportunity for me to make positive changes to my diet and exercise plans, in a way that will improve my overall health.
  4. Stay in the moment. Problems are magnified when we think that they will last forever. Both of my parents have arthritis and I was worrying about how I’d feel in 25 years. We can usually manage one day, week or year at a time. It’s when we project into the future that we get hit with fear and anxiety. Work to stay present and not catastrophize the future.
  5. Be nice to yourself. How would you treat a child who was disappointed about losing a favorite teddy bear? Would you berate them for being careless and stupid? Or would you be understanding and compassionate? Being disappointed is emotionally difficult and we need to treat ourselves with compassion.
  6. Remind yourself about change. Time passes and things change. One of the best ways to recover from disappointment is to tell yourself, “This too will pass.”
  7. Re-examine your expectations. I’m a big fan of setting realistic expectations. Unfortunately, circumstances arise that are not under our control. Once I realized that rehabilitating my knee was going to take longer than anticipated, I relaxed and adjusted my timeline.
  8. Create positive plans. Disappointment is a feeling and there is nothing wrong with being sad for a period of time. However it’s not a place where you want to dwell. Figure out what you can do to make things better. With my knee situation, I realized that I needed to get out of a clinical setting and into a gym where I could focus on strengthening. I was no longer stuck with the limited hours of the physical therapy clinic, plus I was saving money and had access to more equipment.
  9. Share your feelings. Figure out a way to not get stuck in disappointment. This might be through journaling; talking with a coach or therapist; or sharing your thoughts with a friend. In the case of my knee, I told the physical therapist that I was tired of coming and needed to do something else. Together we formulated the plan described in #8, where I replaced two weekly sessions of physical therapy with trips to the gym.

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Dealing with Disappointment in a Business
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