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8 Ways to Turn Disappointment into Meaningful Success

“Don’t let today’s disappointment cast a shadow on tomorrow’s dream.” ~Unknown

Have you ever looked back on your life, exactly a year ago, and felt amazed by how much has changed?

Last year at this time, I’d only just started this site and I was competing in a blogging contest. Ignite Social Media, the marketing company behind the mood supplement SAM-e, had come up with a clever crowdsourcing campaign to generate awareness for the product.

In the beginning of the fall, they advertised a contest to win a dream blogging job. The winner would get a six-month contract to write one short daily “good mood” blog post—as well asa new laptop and $5,000 per month, totaling $30,000.

In order to win, candidates needed to get enough votes to be in the top twenty—out of close to a thousand people—and then needed to get even more votes in a second round that involved a video.

At the time, I was still collecting unemployment after being laid off earlier in the year. I was also putting all my heart into building Tiny Buddha around the ideas of wisdom and happiness and running my old blog, Seeing Good.

I knew Brigitte Dale was in the running. In case you aren’t familiar, Brigitte Dale is a popular vlogger who used to make videos for ABC Family. I wasn’t certain if I—or anyone—had a chance up against a bona fide web celeb who could clearly bring in big traffic for SAM-e. And then there was her obvious charm—even I fell in love with her watching her videos.

Still, I was going to do everything in my power to try. The judges said ultimately they would choose the winner, regardless of who had the most votes, so I reasoned that it was anyone’s opportunity to earn.

At the end of the contest, she held first place with somewhere around 22,000 votes, and I was in second with somewhere around 18,000. When the judges announced that they’d chosen Brigitte, I wasn’t shocked, but I naturally felt disappointed.

I’d put a lot of effort, very publicly, into creating that possibility. Thousands of people supported me, voting every day for months. People had blogged about it, tweeted about it, and emailed friends about it. At first, I felt like I’d let them, and myself, down.

Then I decided to focus on the many gifts Ignite Social Media gave me. I might not have gotten the job, but I felt a renewed sense of purpose in my writing, an increased confidence realizing how many people believed in me, and a deepened commitment to building this site.

Now, as I finish my first book, which I will hand to my publisher in a little over a week, and I look around at the amazing community here, I realize there is no such thing as failure if we realize it isn’t an end. We can decide what failure means.

If you’ve dealt with any disappointments lately and you’re wondering how to turn it all around, know that it’s never over.

Here’s how you can bounce back from failure and turn it into success:

1. Define success on your own terms.

Failure is a subjective term. If you have very rigid ideas of what it means to succeed, you will often feel disappointed. If there’s one thing that’s certain in life, it’s that nothing is certain, so why pin your sense of self-worth to something that may or may not happen?

When I didn’t win the SAM-e contest, I decided to focus on what I did accomplish, both within and outside that venture. I ran a successful campaign and still wrote something every day for Tiny Buddha. Regardless of the outcome, that was a success, and it led to others.

2. Find the value in failure.

If you’re looking for a job and you don’t ace an interview, you could either decide you failed at that interview, or you succeeded in learning something to help you in the next—which might be an even better opportunity than the one that just past. As the Dalai Lama said, “Sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”

I could give you all types of statistics for entrepreneurs and companies that eventually succeeded after abundant failures, but I’m not only talking about monetary success. I’m talking about personal success—bouncing back from a disappointment and continuing to move forward on the path that makes you happy.

I believe the greatest achievement in life is the choice to be empowered, not paralyzed, by a disappointment. There is no greater success than the ability to take responsibility for your joy.

3. Act on what you’ve learned.

Anything can be useful if we learn from it and then do something with that knowledge. The second part is where a lot of us get tripped up, and understandably so. On the one hand, we know that consistency is crucial to creating positive change. On the other, we know that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Unfortunately, there is no magical formula for creating the lives we visualize. No one can tell us what to keep doing and what to do differently. We have to gauge for ourselves what’s working and where we could improve; and then we have to keep going, knowing full well there are no guarantees.

4. Focus on the process, not the results.

Just because you didn’t reach a specific goal you set, that doesn’t mean you can’t still do what you’d like to do. It’s not over just because you didn’t create one specific outcome. If you keep doing what you love, you will inevitably identify new possibilities that will fulfill you.

Another benefit of adopting a process-oriented approach is that it’s easier to be mindful when you focus on the action steps. This doesn’t mean you stop setting goals and measuring your progress toward them. It just means let each step fuel your sense of meaning, joy, and accomplishment.

5. Accept that it isn’t always personal.

As much as we’d like to believe hard works always pays off, sometimes there are things beyond our control that have nothing to do with what we did or didn’t do. This may be the reason a lot of people try and try again only to achieve the same results. Some things are just harder to do than others.

If you go to seven interviews for sportscaster jobs, but every time, you’re up against industry veterans, your failures may have a lot to do with who you were competing against.

We can always find room for improvement, but sometimes we need to accept that results aren’t always reciprocal to efforts. However, we increase our odds of creating results if we choose to move forward regardless.

6. Create your own luck.

In his book The Luck Factor, psychologist Richard Wiseman found that extroverted people who are open to new ideas and possibilities tend to consider themselves lucky. He hypothesized that their willingness to engage with people and consider different opportunities, coupled with their ability to encounter adversity without falling into despair, positioned them for good fortune.

If we stay positive and keep our eyes open, we will inevitably see opportunities in life. It’s the difference between walking with your head held high and noticing a rainbow, and walking with your gaze on your feet and seeing only puddles.

7. Get SMART.

It’s entirely possible that you failed because you set yourself up for failure. SMART goals work—they’re specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

If you’d like to start a business but you have a full-time job and a three-month old baby, this might not be the best time. It’s more realistic to believe you can succeed once you make adjustments in your schedule than when you’re overwhelmed by family and work responsibilities.

8. Find opportunities in adversity.

I forget where I recently read this story, but a young boy was looking to get a job. Everywhere he went, he heard they weren’t hiring, so he decided to set a new goal: for each company he visited, he would either get a job or sell them a “Not hiring” sign which he would make.

When we think outside the box, we might not get what we want, but we’re more apt to get what we need. I didn’t get the SAM-e job; I worked far more than a couple hours each day throughout this whole year; and I suspect I didn’t earn $30,000 for the entirety of 2010.

Yet this has been the most fulfilling and empowering year of my life. Regardless of losing, I succeeded. And you can, too.

Photo by Carmela Nava

Avatar of Lori Deschene

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook series (which includes one free eBook) & co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you get unstuck & change your life. She's now seeking stories to include in her next book, 365 Tiny Love Challenges by Tiny Buddha. Click here to share your story! For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter & Facebook.

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  • Anonymous

    I love hearing a little more background on what’s put you here Lori. Awesome post. I am blown away with what you’ve created un a year. Thanks for the voting shout out too. I think we have a good shot at winning this! Would be a serious game changer and a ton of fun.

    -Scott

  • http://www.onekindwordproject.org/ Molly

    That first point is so important. I try never to compare my life and my accomplishments to other people. I think if you keep doing that, then you’ll never be good enough. I know that my definition of success isn’t going to match everyone else’s definition. And that’s OK.

    http://www.onekindwordproject.org/

  • http://www.ThePowerofReceiving.com Amanda

    A very inspiring post, Lori. Congratulations on finishing your book!

  • http://caity.nu Caity

    I really needed to hear this today. I feel like all I have encountered lately is failure after disappointment after brick wall. Optimism is hard to find sometimes when the bouncy ball inside you has deflated. Thanks for some tips on how to blow it all back up again and get back to bouncing back. Great post. :)

  • Cdax

    Very practical but illuminating thoughts and advice for people of any age or stage in life. Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m glad you found this post useful!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Caity,

    I know that feeling well–what a wonderful analogy! I’m glad this post helped pump that bouncy ball back up a little =)

    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks so much Amanda! I got your email and I’m about to write back. I’m really looking forward to reading yours!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Great point Molly. A while back, a contributor named Sonya Derian wrote that a better approach is to compare ourselves to our past selves, measuring our progress instead of commenting on what other people have done. I think that’s a helpful way of looking at things to sustain motivation.

    Thanks for the link to your site. What a wonderful concept!

    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You are most welcome. I think so, too, Scott! =)

  • Rusiirani

    Practical steps to overcome disappointments in life. Excellent !!!

  • Vera Santos

    Tiny Buddha,
    That’s exactly what I nedded to read today!

  • Vera Santos

    Tiny Buddha,
    That’s exactly what I nedded to read today!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m glad you found it helpful!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Fantastic! =)

  • http://confusioncris.wordpress.com/ Cris

    I am currently in the same situation that you were in. I entered in several fashion blogging contest with no wins, and recently entered in the Sunglass Hut Fashion Blogger contest that involves a one year contract with loads of other incentives with the position. Again, it’s based off voting and popularity, so I am not even sure I am a shoe in for the top ten. Along with that I got laid off in August of this year and have been unemployed every since. I was receiving benefits but they are currently on hold right now so that means NO funds for the holidays or the whole month of November. I am truly at the end of the rope and losing hope. But I can honestly say that your blog and tiny buddha tweets help me a great deal. I read them and feel as though I know I am truly not alone with the process of succeeding in my dreams and finding employment. I appreciate your writing encouraging and inspiring words and insight.

  • http://confusioncris.wordpress.com/ Cris

    I am currently in the same situation that you were in. I entered in several fashion blogging contest with no wins, and recently entered in the Sunglass Hut Fashion Blogger contest that involves a one year contract with loads of other incentives with the position. Again, it’s based off voting and popularity, so I am not even sure I am a shoe in for the top ten. Along with that I got laid off in August of this year and have been unemployed every since. I was receiving benefits but they are currently on hold right now so that means NO funds for the holidays or the whole month of November. I am truly at the end of the rope and losing hope. But I can honestly say that your blog and tiny buddha tweets help me a great deal. I read them and feel as though I know I am truly not alone with the process of succeeding in my dreams and finding employment. I appreciate your writing encouraging and inspiring words and insight.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Cris,

    I know that situation well. I’m sorry to hear about your benefits, and I hope they’re off hold soon. What’s the link to your contest? I’ll vote for you!

    I’m glad you’ve found Tiny Buddha helpful. I always appreciating connecting with people who can relate to the same things I’ve dealt with. Even though it may seem like it at times, we truly are never alone.

    Wishing you a happy holiday season~
    Lori

  • http://bit.ly/ProsPower Diane

    I always thought it was quirky that I pointed out rainbows when others didn’t seem to notice, however trait gets me through adverse moments. I have shared some of your posts in our linkedin group – The Power of Positive. Thanks for your inspiration!

  • Harry

    Great post. For tracking SMART goals, You may want to check out http://GoalsOnTrack.com, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks for the link Harry! I’ve actually seen several free resources for this, as well. These ones look pretty good to me: http://www.8goals.com/ and http://www.goalmigo.com/ Not sure if you’ve seen those ones yet =)

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose AlannahRose

    I really know how it feels to be at the end of your rope and not have any more hope. I found this blog during one of those times in my life and it also helped me a great deal. I just wanted to say please hang in there and keep searching for inspiration to get you through these really rough times. I really wish you the best and hope you’ll soon find employment!

  • http://twitter.com/GoalsOnTrack Harry Che

    Seen both, all nice sites.

  • http://yogendrarawat.blogspot.com Yogendra Rawat

    Hi Lori, 
    It was great to read your story. I am working on the same line.I too write about philosophy and problems of life. Visit my blog http://yogendrarawat.blogspot.com/  Philosopher Novice. You my find it interesting. I would also like to have your advice on how I can improve my blog and whether I am doing it right way. 

    Regards.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi there. Thanks so much for the link to your blog. I will check it out! As for tips to improve your blog, there really isn’t a right or wrong way. If you write about what you’re passionate about and do it consistently, in my book, you’re doing a wonderful job!

  • Jinkybsuarez

    What I read helped me feel better and not sorry for myself.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m glad this helped! =)

  • http://www.buddhawithlove.blogspot.com/ raj

    failure will never be called a failure until you stop trying…Nice post lori

  • Madhan

    This is an awesome post for all people who want to bounce back in life after failure

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

     Thanks so much. I’m glad you found it helpful!

  • Lori

    Nice post! I’ve started blogging when I was 9 months pregnant last year and continued to blog but am now debating whether or not to continue or try something totally different. My blog is about budget fashion but I’m on this self-imposed simplification project so am not sure retail shopping really helps me or my readers. I was disappointed in that I thought a year after starting a blog it would gain momentum and I’d have a clearer editorial focus but hasn’t happened yet. This post is a nice pick-me-up. Thanks Lori!
    -Lori
    glamsavestyle.com

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome! Your self-imposed simplification project sounds fascinating. I’ve been trying to simplify as well. It’s such a liberating feeling!

  • Puneet Agrawal

    True, sometimes disappointment is temporary and it comes to take us to a much greater pleasure…
    Look at this experience of disappointment which had taken a person to worst possible stage…
    http://www.artoflivingsecrets.com/2012/06/born-again.html

  • Yeshi Gemaneh

    “8 Ways to Turn Disappointment into Meaningful Success”, by Lori Deschene, contains very useful advises. Item 7 where it says, ” …you failed because you set yourself up for failure.” I don’t think that would be true in everyone’s case, because in many cases each and everyone strive to be successful. Who would not like to be successful. Unless a wrong time at a wrong place or fall in the hands of biased circle. At times we need to see to be failure as success by itself, because there are lessons to be learned from it.

  • menyounmyself

    i found out my final thesis results was not the one that i expected it. Imagine i had given my all, my time and definitely hard work in to this and add more getting positive response and feedback from my lecturer and supervisor. when the results come out, i am utterly shocked and disappointment. there is nothing i can do. the thing is, facing this and deal with my disappointment and emotion seems a hard thing to do. i confused. how to keep yourself together ? how to face with everyone with an ok face and that is everything is fine?

  • Felix Brown

    Thanks for sharing your inputs. I agree failure is the stepping stone to success. Experience is important and failure breeds success. You must improve it day after day. And you will success in future.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. I couldn’t agree more with what you wrote. =)