Dealing with Disappointments: Why do we struggle?

Dealing with Disappointments: Why do we struggle?

It is safe to say that there is nobody that has not faced disappointments in their lives, careers or business. Often, this takes the form of lost opportunities, failures or results not being as expected. The aftermath of the disappointment starts with an emotional burst of hurt, anger, resentment or despair. Our confidence dissipates, our fears are amplified and the stress starts to build up. This is also the time to slow down, take a step back and look at the situation with fresh eyes.

Before we can handle the feelings that arise from a disappointment, it is necessary to understand why they affect us so much. The fact of the matter is that all outcomes, no matter how big or important, can have only two possibilities. Like a binary pair, they can either be a zero or a one. In other words, the outcome could be a yes or a no. Each have exactly the same 50-50 probability of occurring. So, you could either land the job or not, she could either say yes or no, the customer could either buy or not. Until the decision is made, there is an equal chance of either outcome.

However, when it comes to our expectations of the outcome, this rule scarcely applies. In our minds, we assign a disproportionately high percentage in favor of one outcome over the other. We are always 99% sure that we will get the job offer, we are 90% confident of getting high grades and so on. What we fail to realize is that despite our expectation being in the high 90’s, the statistical probability remains at 50% either way.

When the outcome is revealed, if it is in our favor, we feel elated and vindicated. Our confidence shoots up and we are thrilled. However, if the outcome is not in our favor, we plummet down from the 99% confidence and happiness level to 0% leaving us floundering and unable to come to terms with the new reality. Our reaction? Hurt, Anger, Denial, Despair and loss of confidence. In short, our construct of reality has just come face to face with the actual reality.

The solution then seems to be clear. Instead of raising our expectations to an unnaturally high level, we should always realize that there could only be two outcomes and each of them have exactly the same probability of happening. Further, we need to realize that our desires are not our goals. While goals are linked to outcomes, our desires are the essence of who we want to be and no matter what the outcome may be, there are always different routes that we can take to fulfill our desires.

Living a life of resilience means developing and practicing the art of staying true to the essence of who we are and what is important to us while viewing both good things and bad things with equal detachment. By not creating our own reality that is not congruent with the actual reality, we are safeguarding ourselves from the plunge that inevitably follows an unfavorable outcome.

What to do When Nothing seems to be happening

Many of us have been in this place where nothing seems to be happening in our lives, in our careers or in our businesses. The goals that we expected to reach have not materialized and there just seems to be a vacuum where our future should be.

  • This could be a period of unemployment when job application after application is not yielding results, cash is running out and things are looking bleak
  • Perhaps this is a situation where your business is not moving forward, you are not landing new clients or generating revenue and yet have to pay for your rent, your staff, and other overheads.
  • This could even be in your life; the plans that you made for your life are not happening, you are staring at a blank wall and have no clue what you have to do next.

The default behavior that we all exhibit when faced with adversity and challenges is inertia. To just try to do the same things that we have been doing, hoping against hope that things would turn around for us.  We try to motivate ourselves with the thought that what we seek is just around the corner. But we still do not do what is needed to get ourselves out of the situation that we find ourselves in.

Consider world-class athletes and sportspersons. Do you think they do not fail? As a matter of fact, at the level they compete, they fail more often than they succeed. So, what do you think athletes do when they fail? Of course, they feel bad about it for a while; they are only human… but here’s the thing. They do not sit back thinking that they will be successful very soon. They go back to the basics. They start looking at their technique, their motivation levels, their physical condition, their mindset and above all, they work with their trainers and coaches to hone their skills and sharpen their competitiveness. In short, they take action to ensure that when the opportunity comes, they do not fail again.

I think there is a very good lesson here for all of us. When we feel that things are not going our way, it is time to take a step back and reassess our goals, look at the inventory of skills that we have, study the trends in the market, identify new windows of opportunities, build contacts with those that can help us pivot and above all, take action to make things happen.

Success does not happen by luck or by circumstances; they happen because you engineer them. So, start engineering your success and watch your life change.

The Elephant and the Mahout

Have you ever seen a mahout control a large animal like an elephant? He learns to do this through constant practice, skill, and experience. The elephant is so much stronger than the mahout but still does his bidding. If ever, the mahout was to weaken even slightly, the elephant could take over and stop obeying the mahout or even attack him.

The fight between our emotional brain and our logical, thinking brain is very similar. Long ago, when man evolved, one of the first parts of the brain that developed was the emotional brain. It wasn’t until much later that the thinking or logical brain developed. Thus, the emotional brain is way more powerful than the logical brain and can easily take over and dominate. It is only through sheer willpower and application that our logical brain is able to control the emotional brain and get things done.

This constant tussle plays out in our day to day lives. Your logical brain knows that you need to stop eating sugary stuff and that it is going to add to your weight, but at the very sight of a delicious cheesecake, your emotional brain takes over and you succumb to the temptation. Unfortunately, the reward center of our brain is located inside the emotional brain and every time this is activated at the sight of food, the logical brain becomes powerless to stop you from indulging yourself.

This explains why we are so bad at keeping to new year resolutions!

Just as the mahout learns to control the elephant through discipline and effort, so will you need to train your emotional brain to listen to the logical brain when it comes to achieving your goals. The mastery of goals requires iron-will and determination but the bedrock of the entire effort is the logical reason why you are pursuing the goal in the first place and this has to be the glue that keeps the entire structure intact.


So, the next time you give into temptation, remember that the logical brain is what is watching out for you and safeguarding you. Learn to go with the core reasons why you are doing anything you are doing at all and be aware of the greater satisfaction that achieving your goals can give you rather than giving in and gaining momentary pleasure that is going to take you away from the path you have chosen for yourself.

Why People Leave Organizations

Why People Leave Organizations

Countless money and thinking have gone into determining what makes people decide to stay or leave an organization. The factors that are most commonly stated are working environment, work pressure, low salary, difficult managers and discrimination. While all of these are certainly contributory factors to a decision to leave, in my opinion, the underlying factor is much more basic; something that is not immediately apparent.

As human beings, we all have a moral compass, a GPS for our minds and souls and this is in the form of our Core Values. Whenever an incident or person steps on our Core Values, we tend to react negatively. Even the actions we do in our day-to-day life are dictated by our Core Values. So, for example, whether you feel pity or irritation when you see someone begging on the street, is determined by what your values are. In this case, if your core value is compassion, you would probably feel pity whereas you may feel mildly irritated if your core value is one of self-help or independence.

It is no different when it comes to our workplaces. Just as all of us have our individual Core Values, organizations have their values too. Usually, this is in the form of their Vision or Mission statements or it could be just the culture or way of working that is prevalent within the organization; what people generally refer to as the “working environment”.  It’s the clash between an organization’s values and the Core Values of its employees that causes people to say that “ the working atmosphere in my office is toxic” or “I don’t like the culture in my company“. At the same time when this happens, the organization often thinks that this is a problem with the particular employee and then the employee’s ‘attitude’ is brought into question.

If this gap between the respective values keeps widening, there comes a time when either of the two has to take a decision not to continue with each other. The result is either the employee quitting on their own or being terminated by the organization.

Thus, we see that the real reason organizations and its employees decide to part ways is rooted in the incongruent values that they each hold and the resultant clash between them. Knowing what core values are held sacrosanct by an organization will help employees to understand better what the organization expects from them and similarly by encouraging and creating a space within the company where employees could express their thoughts freely without being judged goes a long way in creating an atmosphere of trust and belonging.

Why we chase goals?

Why we chase goals?

Have you ever stopped to consider why we incessantly chase goals? What drives us to seek to set new milestones and new achievements? Are we born with this propensity to chase goals or do we develop this hunger during our childhood or much later when we step into the competitive world?

While there are no clear answers to this yet, it appears that the origins of our goal achieving urge go back to our early childhood. Right from the time we are able to comprehend, we are encouraged to do things faster, better and more efficiently whether it is learning the alphabets or numbers or acquiring life skills. This “education” that starts with our family members is further reinforced at school and college and fully manifests itself when we begin our careers. We are expected to be competitive and to get ahead in our lives and career. Goals, thus become important for us to aim for and to achieve.

Think back to the first goal you had….it probably goes back to your childhood or school; perhaps you wanted to get a star from your favorite teacher, maybe you went to the circus and became determined to become an acrobat. You knew that achieving your goal would have made you happy. Goals do that. They activate the reward center within our brain and the promise of a potential payoff is sufficient motivation for us pursue our goals.

There is something intrinsically motivating about setting and achieving goals, a validation of our capabilities and a proof of our ability to push ourselves beyond the norms and finally capped with the sweet rewards that success would invariably bring, that makes the entire exercise worthwhile and rewarding.

What do you want? Really, Really want?

What do you want? Really, Really want?

All of us know what we want out of our life, our career, and our business. Right? Well..not really. Research has shown that only about 6% of people around the world actually know precisely what their goals are to the extent that they have written down their goals. This means the vast majority, billions of people have no clue what they want.

This fact is not really surprising considering that people rarely are able to articulate their goals. Usually, their goals are just a vague concept in their minds in the form of a strong feeling that something is missing in their lives and that they ought to do something about it soon. But, the reality is that they are not able to pinpoint exactly what is needed.

As a Performance & Success Coach, I often ask my clients what their goals are. The answers are along expected lines such as “I want to get a better paying job” or ” I want to save more money” or even “I want to start a business”. While all of these are good goals to have, perhaps what one needs to verify is that these are really what one wants out of life.

Let me give an example. When my clients tell me that they want to get a better paying job, I ask them “and what will that give you?”. They reply “I will be able to save more money”. Again my question is “and what will that give you?”. The answer is “I will be able to provide a better life for my family”. I repeat my question “OK. so what will achieving that give you?”. After thinking for a while, they say “It will give me happiness and peace of mind”. Now, that is what they really, REALLY want. Happiness and Peace of Mind, not another job. So, anything that would give them the same result would be acceptable and not just another better paying job.

When you think of the reasons why you want to achieve something in your life or career next time, keep asking yourself “and what will that give me?” until you can answer it no more and THAT will be what you really, really, REALLY want.