My daughter called me last night. She sounded so exhausted. She was experiencing, in her words, “The worst day of her life.” Not only had results from auditions yielded less than what she desired, she had broken a key, and taken personally, an instructor’s decisions.
I felt so sad when I got off the phone. The “protector” daddy wanted to hold her, to assure her that “this too shall pass,” and to challenge those who failed to recognize her talent. Two hundred miles away, the best I could do was to remind her how well she was loved.
Disappointments are hard. They are especially difficult for individuals who have any need for validation from external sources. And let’s face it; nearly all of us with functioning egos are carrying around some need for proof of our own beliefs, from the world around us.
When this proof is not immediately forthcoming, we can react in a number of different ways. How we react directly determines our ability to dwell in peace. Our reaction is often tied to how attached we are to a certain outcome.
I just read this quote from St. John of the Cross: “The soul that is attached to anything, however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union.”
I have read a lot of writings, over the years, that insist desire is the root cause of all pain. But, I cannot agree with that. Desire is what moves us forward; it is often the catalyst for sacrificing pleasure now, to invest in some ideal about who we want to become, or to accomplish something not yet realized.
I can agree, however, that being attached to the outcome of our efforts does, often, inhibit our ability to live our lives in peace. This is why it is so important that we find joy in the very path we are following, on our quest to reach our goals.
I am a big fan of success stories. I think it is fascinating to read about the choices made by wildly successful people. There are some common traits found in people who pursue their dreams, refusing to give up until they become great at their chosen endeavor. In fact, there are dozens of books which seek to condense these character traits into bullet points, so we all may learn from them.
One of the characteristics, that I have seen time and time again, in truly successful people, is the ability to find joy and meaning in the mundane, rudimentary tasks that are necessary to reach the intended goals. Nothing has ever been accomplished without putting the work in. Most people never reach the level of success that Edison, Gates, Pavarotti, or others at the top of their respective fields enjoy, because they do not find the necessary investment enjoyable.
Win or lose, the happiest, most peaceful, professional athletes rejoice in their ability to do something they absolutely love for their livelihood. The individuals who are consistently at the top of their fields find great joy in the work that is required to stay there. That is not to say that they do not feel disappointment when their efforts do not result in their desired goals, but the ones who really thrive, do not allow these disappointments to devastate them. They have the ability to extract what they “need to learn” from the setback and return to investing the effort that is required to become even greater. If Babe Ruth had gotten discouraged because he struck out twice as many times as he hit homeruns, we would have never heard of him.
Winners are not defined by their outcomes.
Winners enjoy the process which moves them towards their dreams. Whether their dream is realized “just as they imagined” or if it shows up wearing some other disguise, they are winners simply because life can never defeat them.
I am very proud of my daughter. She feels disappointment when her short term goals are not realized, but she has such an excellent attitude. She knows that when one door does not open, as she had hoped, it is because another door, with an even greater reward, is about to open.
I am comforted by knowing that temporary setbacks do not devastate this amazing child. She has always been wise, well beyond her years.