How to Quickly Deal With Discouragement

Posted by Todd Smith

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If we’re being honest, we all get discouraged. It’s just one of those potholes on our journey we all hit from time to time. You can have everything you have ever wanted, but you are still going to get discouraged at times.

When we get discouraged our attitude and emotions turn negative. When this happens our productivity takes a nosedive, we tend to retreat and withdraw from others, and the risk of giving up on whatever we’re working toward runs very high.

Since it can have such a negative impact on every area of our lives, including our health, learning to deal with disappointments in life and the temporary discouragement that may result is an important part of managing our lives.

James Whitcomb Riley said, “The most essential factor is persistence—the determination never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by the discouragement that must inevitably come.

How to Deal With Discouragement

Fortunately for me, most of the time when I find myself feeling down, it’s because I am tired, had a rough day or someone said something that bothered me.  If I just get a good night’s rest, I usually wake up with renewed energy.

Sometimes, however, I need more than just a night of rest. I need to explore the root cause of my discouragement so that I can better understand it and respond accordingly.

Below is the five-step process I go through when I’m discouraged and need to figure out why. (As you can tell by reading my posts, I am a thinker and a processer.)

1.  Ask: Why am I discouraged? If it is not obvious, take a few minutes to sit down and make a list of potential reasons why you’re feeling defeated. Making this list is critical because you can’t take control of something you don’t understand.

2.  As you look at each reason, ask: Why does this make me feel discouraged? Once you know the source of your discouragement, you should explore deeper.

  • Is it because of unmet expectations that I feel this way? If so, make sure your expectations are realistic and that you are not setting yourself up for failure.
  • Is it because I have let myself down?  If so, what specifically have you done?

3.  Look at the bigger picture. Do your best to gain perspective not just on the issue that is the source of discouragement, but on your relationship to it as well. For example:

  • Am I feeling this way because I am burned out? Do I need a break?
  • What part of this situation is my fault? What can I do differently? What can I learn?
  • Am I making progress, but just slower than I had hoped? What lessons have I learned? Am I a better person because of this experience?
  • Who can I talk to for some trusted insight and perspective on this matter? This is always a big help to me because much of my discouragement stems from unfulfilled expectations. Often a fresh perspective is all I need.

4.  Ask: What’s my plan? As I reflect on all the times I have been discouraged, they have been times when I needed to grow. It may be that I needed to learn to set better expectations, that I needed to learn to be more careful in whom I place my trust, or that I needed to have a different perspective. In each case, I was forced to grow as a person.

Next to each item on your list write down your plan to address the issue that is bothering you and quickly move on. Don’t accept a long-term sentence of discouragement. It is a choice. Keep moving forward. Nothing puts an end to discouragement like productive mental and physical activity.

5.  Count your blessings. Make a list of all the things for which you are grateful. Often times, we focus on the one thing that’s wrong and overlook the 99 things that are going well. When you make a conscious effort to write down what’s good and going well in your life, it helps you to put things into perspective.

A Time for Action

What will you do the next time you find yourself getting discouraged?

Vincent van Gogh, famous Dutch painter, said, In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.”

The secret to overcoming discouragement is to look at it as a temporary obstacle and learn how to process it.  Once you start executing your plan, the discouragement you feel will leave as quickly as it appeared.  Hold on to your vision and remember that ALL great successes came after periods of discouragement and failure. Don’t give up. The dark cloud of discouragement will disappear. You will smile again and experience a productive, fruitful life.

By immediately dealing with discouragement when it strikes, not only will your life be better, but so will your family, friends and co-workers who are impacted by your attitude.

What do you do when you are feeling discouraged? If you have a tip or suggestion, please share it in the comments section below.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 34 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts.


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