How do you deal with disappointment?

What happens when you let yourself down… the hook, or give yourself a pass from making progress in the direction of your dreams, goals or overarching objectives?

What does that inner voice say?

Do you wither away or get up to fight another day?

One of my favorite chapters in writing “PASSION!” was about the art and science of self compassion and forgiveness…..and finding (and facing) your future self with skillful strategies that support following through…ESPECIALLY when you face that first day of feeling like a failure.

(e.g. – you break your diet, you DON’T run a mile, you sneak a cigarette, you DON’T work on your blog, etc)

For most of my life, I’ve been a “start again on Monday” sort of person 🙂 

(usually a comitment I’ll make on a Tuesday)

The reason?

I’ve always been my own worst critic – and when I’ve broken a promise or a plan and didn’t follow through on something I set out to do – it was almost like I felt I needed a brand new slate to begin again.

Learning to disrupt this pattern – and to transform negative self referential mental processing – (e.g. – this sucks – I suck –  this goal isn’t worth getting….and it sucks too)  has been incredibly helpful in more ways than I can possibly count here.  (which I credit largely to lots and lots of mindfulness meditation – which is an invaluable tool for seeing – and then silencing that voice once and for all)

Here is an excerpt from PASSION – and something that – if you struggle with similar feelings – is well worth reading as well.

What do you DO on day # 2?

That’s the question you ought to be asking if you’ve found yourself always getting stuck halfway up the mountain.

Because that’s the REAL secret of success.

Not how you feel when your ducks are all in a row and you are ready to go.

Instead – the first time you fail, or fall, or don’t live up to the lofty expectations you set for passion project, how do you respond?

Do you forgive yourself and continue on?

Or do you get so down and disappointed that you disappear into doubt and despair and watch your enthusiasm ebb away?

One of the really interesting things I’ve learned about achieving goals in my own business and experience with the people that push through – is that it’s very rarely about how passionate you are, or your clients are – when you first set sail.

Instead – it boils down to how you respond when you FIRST fall or fail.

I love the science done on the power of positive psychology, goal setting, willpower and self compassion.

If you want to get inspired and excited about some of the ways you can amp UP your output, check out some of the work done by Dr. Kelly Mcgonigal at Stanford University.


Because they’ve demonstrated that everything from diet to quitting cigarettes, to developing a yoga practice, to building a successful soloprenuerial business can be traced back to what you do on that very first day….when things DON’T go your way.

How do you respond to personal setbacks?

What do you tell yourself when you don’t even show up?

Are you a fan of forgiveness?

Or do you prefer to punish yourself for not following through?

Be careful when you think about this…it may have MUCH more to do with getting your goals than all of the passion in the world.

Reams and reams of willpower and goal setting success research reveals that…..

Having a compelling BIG PICTURE perspective that keeps your eye on the prize is the secret to staying ferociously focused on the future.

That being a kind boss to the internal employee that is YOU, is key.

(forgive and forget and focus on the future)

Remember the eye in the sky, and that you are bigger than the blips, bumps and bruises along the way.

No single achievement – or failure – along the way….is big enough to define that version of yourself.

I really can’t stress enough how important this idea has been in my own life….and far beyond the scope of business.

How many times have you tried to go on a new health kick, had ONE single setback, and said to yourself afterwards….

Screw it.  I cheated.  Now I have to have to start over.

And of course, you’ve got to wait till Monday to begin again, right?

Strengthening your achievement muscles

Try this simple exercise:

See yourself at a place in the future where you are actually living the life you imagined.

Whatever it is that YOU love,  that which you would be over the moon to do every day for the rest of your life and get PAID for it…….whatever that gift you have to give to the world IS – picture doing that every day, 90 days from today.

See it.


Feel it.


Smell it. Taste it.


Allow yourself to be immersed in the experience of really living a life that makes you FEEL empowered inspired and excited.


And then identify the steps, using the system you’ve picked, to reverse engineer yourself to that space…starting today.


What do you have to do TODAY to feel that feeling in the future?

Years ago…NLP practitioners used to call this process of feeling a goal “future pacing”.

In my own life – when I’ve forgotten this simple exercise – I can’t even count how many times I’ve started an auspicious personal project that I’ve been stoked about, only to press up against that first failure….and slowly slide back into the abyss.


Simply because I let the distraction of a daily disappointment derail me from my big picture goal.

For example?

I promise myself I’m going to run 90 miles in a month.

3 miles a day, every day.

No excuses.

Starting Monday.

(Because everyone knows all goals worth getting start on Mondays)

Monday I get up and run 3 miles.

I’m pumped, primed and can’t wait till Tuesday.

Tuesday, I pop out of bed and do my best impression of Usain Bolt for 3 miles if he was slow, white and had bad bed-head.

Still rocking.

Wed morning I get up, and something doesn’t quite feel right.

Maybe I slept funny.

Maybe my back is sore.

Maybe I’d rather continue the dream I was happily having before my alarm clock so rudely intervened and Jessica Alba and I were exploring Asia together, with only our backpacks and a AAA map to guide us.

For whatever reason, on Wed, I don’t get up.

And I don’t run my 3 miles.

After a cup of coffee or two and I start my work day,  guilt starts to set in.

And then a sense of apathy about the goal.

Is it really all that important?

Why 90 miles?

Why 3 miles a day?

Why can’t I just run 4 miles a few times a week, when I feel up to it?

And then a sense of futility about the goal.

Now I have to run an extra fraction of a mile every day to make up for it.

What is that all about?

Who has time to do the math every time I miss a day?

The whole 90 mile idea is silly, anyway.

Just run when you can and worry about being healthy.

And this folks, is how the sausage of stagnation is made and the seeds of success sorrow are sown.

It works the exact same way in business –

I’ve had clients where I’ve simply said

“Look, you want your first paying client in 2 weeks?   Write 4 articles every morning for 90 minutes the next 10 days – follow THIS specific formula – and if you do this, that and this……by day 11 you’ll have a small list of 30 subscribers, 4 follow up email messages and probably, your first paying client.

Let’s re-convene on the 10th day and measure.




Invariably what happens is, day’s 1 and 2 they write the 4 articles are riding high.

Day 3 they write 2 and think they’ll make it up the next. (after all…who is watching?)

Day 4 they write none.

Day 5 they try to write 9 and don’t.

Day 6 they write 1, hate it, and tear it up in frustration

Day 7 the whole thing feels strained, stressed, no fun and all mucked up.

By day 10 – there is a whole new dynamic to deal with,  & it’s usually disappointment, self criticism and the shell of confidence that has begun to crumble

And it’s always that first “derailment day” that causes all the chaos.

Because it turns out – on Day 3….that eye in the sky who is watching is YOU.

And the voice of the impostor….that silent critic within,  begins to squeak.

Instead – what you need to do is:

Forgive yourself.

Forget the failure.

And focus on what you know is next.

Stress Testing your Goals.

Document your disappointment in advance.

Write down everything that will happen when you DON’T do what you promised.

How will you respond that first day that you don’t update your blog?

What will you do that first time you don’t write a new article, or add a page to your new website, or find 3 potential JV partners?

Whatever it is that you are planning on doing…whatever SYSTEM you are using to achieve your goals, stress test it in advance.

Feel the failure….and have a plan in place for exactly what you are going to do on day 2.

For example….

If I knew, in advance that the first day I got up and didn’t run the 3 miles, I wasn’t going to punish myself.

I wasn’t going to guilt myself.

And I wasn’t going to anguish about why I’m not where I want to be.

Instead, because I looked into the future and watched as my normal human frailties showed up on the path

I simply said –

“Hey Ian – when you have a bad day – and you will – feel a little self forgiveness and compassion.  Don’t forget – You are human – and it happens to everyone.  All you’re going to do when you face your first crisis of conscience is put your running shoes on the next day and keep moving forward.  


Because day 31 is coming – and when it does – you want to be that faster, leaner and healthier living version of yourself that you know is waiting to shine through – and you WILL be if you remember that your long term health and happiness is more important than any one day’s disappointment, distraction or dubious decision”


Future pace your failure.

Describe how it feels.

Notice what you notice.

And then understand that missing a day doesn’t define you.

It’s simply part of the experience of getting to where your going.

It works wonders for me – and I’ve watched it help people who are perpetually “Start again on Monday Motivational Mavens” pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and continue on the path of progress AFTER they’ve missed milestones that would have derailed them before.

No more Monday morning motivation and new clean slates.

Dust yourself off and and re-focus exactly as you are, where you are.

Try it.

It works.



View all posts by ian

I am an author, artist and entrepreneur. My 2 passions are writing about, and teaching Marketing and Meditation. I like to think I'm a lot like Eckhart Tolle, if only he was taller, and a much better tennis player. (it turns out in person, he's super short, has a terrible backhand and wears this weird scottish hat thingy that makes it really difficult to concentrate while serving) Plus he refuses to keep score and says " it's always NOW" when you ask who is up. Enough about me. We barely know each other. Stop staring. You're making me nervous.