Vital Moves When Discouragement Strikes - Part 1

What do you do when discouragement strikes?  Abraham Zaleznik, a renowned organizational scholar discovered years ago, this is what everyone experiences but no one likes to talk about.  After Zaleznik wrote a piece for Harvard Business Review entitled, The Management of Disappointment, he was stunned to discover how few people responded or reacted to his musing on one of life’s most common experiences. Everyone wakes up on some day and feels like Winston Churchill, who often sensed he was being followed by a black dog. What to do?  In this and a follow up muse I want to propose a few helpful moves when we are hounded by discouragement.

The first vital move is to go deeper into our own story.  This may feel like the last thing we want to do but a key move is going below the symptom to the root of our discouragement.  There is great help to be found in our own fierce wrestling with the Psalmist’s question, ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul?’ This is the resolve to talk to ourselves and to honestly wrestle with where the discouragement is rooted and entangled.  We often discover the deeper roots of fear or shame or pride. We begin to spot the power of misaligned attachments to control or over-concern with the opinions of others.  Most often we are looking at surface circumstances or negative situations and we get discouraged.  The key is going deeper in order to surface and then surrender the root rather the symptom of our discouragement.

Another game changer, when discouragement strikes, is to take the time to enter a story . . . the story of someone nearby.  A powerful way to hack discouragement is to cross the street and find someone who needs a lift.  Discouragement is a dangerous inward mindset – it is often a dance with oneself in a never-ending round of rumination.  In contrast, the outward mindset is powerful in its ability to transform our attentiveness from self to others.  A few moments conversation with any friend will most likely surface some pain points in need of a lift.  Listen and then lift. Before long we will find our own discouragement fading to the background.  It is often the case that our greatest need is to get out of your own heads and into the world of another.  Courage grows in us when we bring fresh courage to a friend.

Then, find and read a story, the story of another who has gone through the region of discouragement and yet prevailed. This is the great gift of biography.  Such stories are heartening due to our entry into the experience and pain of another.  We can actually experience ‘vicarious resilience’ – a resilience that is found in the stories of others that acts on us like a good contagion. We realize we are part of a vast community of the resilient and we can be touched by their experience but also awed and strengthened by their endurance through hard times. It turns out that the most resilient people are those who take time to shape an inspiring cloud of role models.  As we become more storied people we become more resilient people in the face of whatever discouragement or disappointment comes our way.

We want to hear from you during the month of April through our survey question on the main page – What have you discovered is most helpful to your own soul when discouragement strikes?  Next Post we will add three more vital moves when discouragement strikes.

Continue on to Part 2