Getting Over Disappointment

Note: The winners of the creativity coaching will be announced tomorrow. So you can still leave a comment on yesterday’s blog to be eligible.)

A few weeks ago, a class that I was looking forward to teaching didn’t make. For those of you who don’t teach, “not making” means not enough people enrolled to make the class worthwhile for the location or for me. For an instructor, it’s a blow–to income, to pride, to the schedule.

In my case, the Inner Critic (after all, I spent most of last year writing about the topic) showed up with the usual bus of relatives to tell me that . . . well, you can imagine. You have an Inner Critic, too.

An ancient Chinese stone seal. The writing says, "Do not become complacent with victory; do not become frustrated with defeat."

An ancient Chinese stone seal. The writing says, “Do not become complacent with victory; do not become frustrated with defeat.”

And because I am well-trained by the Inner Critic, I listened and began to follow that bitter and logical voice. Maybe I should stop teaching. How will I ever reach my audience if the classes don’t make? I’m sure you’ve got your own list. And that’s the point to today’s blog. There are better questions to ask yourself after a disappointment.

The first one is my favorite:

1. What did I want to happen? Well, let’s see, I wanted the class to be full, and everyone happy to experiment and eager to work. I imagined happy faces and great art results. That alone cheered me up.

2. How would the class have achieved that? Once I had the happy class in mind, I imagined them working on the project I planned, and in three minutes realized that I wanted to change some things about the class. Now, this is a habit I have, that no class is the same one twice, and that fiddling with the class content is something I do regularly. That put me in the feeling of doing something familiar and fun.

3. “What’s the worst that could happen here?” This is really a grim question. I used to ask it all the time to prepare myself. Instead, I asked, “What’s the best that could come from this?” The answers surprised me–more time to update the class, create a handout with a bonus extra, and run the class closer to the new book launch.

4. Where does it hurt? In my case, pain of failure always hurts in my chest. That was an immediate need. A few deep breathing exercises helped, and a walk made the pain leak out of my body.

Disappointment is a part of every life. How fast we bounce back determines how fast we recover and move on.

—Quinn McDonald would have been happier teaching the class. Having the opportunity to make it better is a gift.