Disappointment Fuel

As the seconds ticked down a tsunami of disappointment began to roll over me. So very close to achieving the greatly desired goal and yet in this moment it was becoming increasingly clear that it was not going to happen.

Of course this outcome was always a possibility, but as the leader your responsibility is to keep the focus on pursuing the desired outcome. Through inspiration, encouragement and stressing the importance of not making any assumptions predicated on past successes, your work is to create the pathway to the hoped for future.

One of the most difficult tasks as a leader is to stand in front of those you are leading in times of collective disappointment. In my experience, how you navigate that moment is completely based on all of the moments that led up to it. Specifically, have you been hyper focused on the desired outcome or have you created a culture which finds great value in learning and growth, including from disappointments.

Personally, I have never been a fan of the bifurcation of journey and destination – “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” The ‘journey’ is the opportunity for exploration, learning, increasing competency and capacity. The ‘destination’ of our goals, dreams, desired outcomes is the opportunity to realize fulfillment, new life, transformation.

The healthiest communities, cultures, and teams that I have been a part of as a leader or participant are those that fully embrace both the process and the accomplishment. They thrive in imagining, implementing and reimagining. And as such ‘disappointment’ is experienced not as failure but fuel for new learning, sparking growth and movement ever closer toward the desired outcome. There is always opportunity on the other side of disappointment for new possibilities, new life. As legendary pastor of Riverside Church in New York City, The Rev. William Sloane Coffin, offered, “We need a hope that is made wise by experience and is undaunted by disappointment.”

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

  • A General Thanksgiving, Book of Common Prayer

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