Disappointment is a weighty emotion. Especially when we’re disappointed with ourselves.
It’s the sadness or regret resulting from the non-fulfillment of our hopes or expectations.
We let ourselves down. Again.
It could be something we said that we wish we hadn’t. Or perhaps we could have presented our comments with more compassion and empathy.
It could be something we tried to do but weren’t successful – perhaps through lack of skill or appropriate effort on our part.
During my first winter in Philadelphia – where some of the evenings were bitterly cold – I would often pass homeless people on the sidewalk. They would beg for money through chattering teeth.
As I walked by them, I would wonder if giving money would help, or if there was something else I should do. And more often than not, I would end up doing nothing as I continued on to whatever destination I was heading.
And then I would feel disappointed for not having helped – for essentially believing that my life mattered more.
The feeling of disappointment is so closely linked with guilt. And guilt leads to beating ourselves up with a sense of inadequacy.
The recurring, debilitating chant of the guilty: I’m a failure.
But imagine if there was another way of dealing with letdown – one that did not induce guilt but instead led to an empowered state of purpose?
In fact, there is. And there are two magical words that can help inspire such transformation: Next time.
But here’s the key to making next time truly effective and not another method for precipitating failure. Rather than telling ourselves next time I will or won’t do such and such, instead, we commit ourselves to doing just a little bit better than last time.
Striving for perfection is a never-ending quest that inevitably leads to disappointment and disillusionment. But attempting to be a little bit better than last time is a path of perpetual growth with new plateaus continually achieved.
It took me five minutes of research to learn where the nearest shelters were to my various walking paths in the city. Then, as I encountered homeless people, I would stop to ask if they were alright and give them directions to the nearest shelter.
I can still do far better than that, but by being a little better than last time, I embolden myself to make even more of a difference.
I’m not good enough. I’m a failure. Those self-concepts will never lead to anything but depression and regret. A life of little growth.
Next time I plan to do just a little bit better than last time. Not only believable and achievable, but such a mindset inspires action and resolve.
All next time takes is a little willingness to choose a different mindset. It opens the door to viewing setbacks as something completely different: opportunities for growth.
Every challenge we face can be transformed into such an opening for growth. Instead of rueing what could have been, we now look optimistically toward the next time when we can be just a little bit better than last time.
Join me in Monday’s class where we’ll explore how next time can open up an entirely new, peaceful way of life. I look forward to seeing you then.