My Experience with Disappointment and How I Overcame It

This is the last part of my 4-part series on dealing with disappointment.

  1. Why Disappointment Is Good
  2. Are You Letting Your Disappointments Destroy You?
  3. How to Deal With Disappointment
  4. My Experience with Disappointment and How I Overcame It

Sun in the desert

Whenever I write articles, I draw inspiration from the events that are unfolding in my life. This one is no different. 😀 Here, I will be sharing my personal experience with disappointment over a month ago which led to the respective insights and revelations you have read thus far in this disappointment series. My purpose of sharing this is for you to benefit from my experience. As you read, see if you can draw any parallels between what I went through and what you are going through in life now.

Beginning of a New Journey: Hopes and Expectations

If you are a regular reader, you would know that in Oct ‘08, I left my full-time job to pursue my purpose to help people grow.

Before I quit, I had already formed a very clear vision of my end goal. I decided that I want to be running a personal development business, and that involves doing it via all different mediums, such as being a coach, blogger, speaker and educator. This site will be the first step of my plans.

I mentally gave myself a 6 month period to fully focus on pursuing my purpose (where I will be living on my savings), and see where it takes me. Depending on how things go at the end of the 6 months, I would either continue to pursue it full fledged, or go back to corporate work (for a few more years) and pursue my purpose at the side.

In my mind though, I was secretly and extremely hopeful that everything would work out and I could do this full fledged from here on.

A State of Happiness and Fulfillment

Life pursuing my purpose is amazingly phenomenal – for the first time, I am able to dedicate my full attention to my goals and dreams without having to manage other conflicting demands from work.

Just imagine being able to wake up every morning, doing anything and everything which you want to do. I’ve always been someone who is very enthusiastic about life on the whole, but these days, I literally bounce around in exuberance, energy and wide grins. 😀 My friends and acquaintances can give testaments to this. 😉 If you have been reading my other articles especially the Discover Your Purpose 7-part series, you will find that I repeatedly reference to how passionate I feel about my purpose and how much it drives me. The feeling is just really, incredible, unlike anything I have felt before.

Conflicting Demands of Reality

However, after a couple of weeks of working on my plans, I realized 6 months is not going to be enough for things to take off to the level I envision. For starters, I need to establish a high level of awareness for the business. I need to also build credibility and expertise for my skills as a personal development educator. By simply being a 24 year old myself, people’s first impression is likely to cast doubt on my abilities. Awareness, credibility and expertise take time to build up and 6 months is not a reasonable time frame (in fact, 2 months had already passed when I was working on my plans). Studies of online blogs have shown it typically takes at least 18 months before a blog fully takes off. That lead time does not even factor in when I am able to start earning a living from the business.

In the meantime, there are other conflicting issues I have to deal with. For example, financial limitations. While I can generally live day by day in a frugal manner, I am limited in many decisions and it is directly/indirectly tied with money. When my friends suggest taking a holiday trip, I opt out due to the cost. When I go out, I am conscious of how I spend my money. I started reducing/cutting out all kinds of expenditures where possible, such as on clothes, dining choices, transportation (I started religiously taking the public transport vs cab), entertainment (movies, activities, and the like), etc. I also noticed I would subconsciously flinch whenever money was involved.

This is a stark contrast with how I was when I was still working – I was by no means a spendthrift, but I never let myself be held back in decisions because of money. It was a deliberate choice too, because I always felt that money should be a means, and never an end.

There is also my family in question. I need to support my family. After I left my job, I stopped giving them money – this was meant as a hiatus till I start earning money properly. By the way, I come from a low-income family – my pay in my previous job was more than double the combined pays of my parents. Quitting my job meant cutting off the core income source of the household. While my parents were very supportive of my decision to quit, it is always in my plans to reinstate some level of my income within 6 months of quitting, someway or another.

The monetary issues do not end there too. As part of my plans to be a life coach, I am exploring attending a formal coaching course to solidify my coaching skills and get a license in the process. However, after checking the coaching courses, it seems like they cost at least four grand and above. Considering I’m not earning anything right now, that is quite a sizable sum of money to me. How can I become a professional life coach if I cannot even pay for the training course?

All in all, it seemed that my key issue is really money.

Contemplation, and Decision

In Nov ‘08, I laid out all the options I have on the table and narrowed them to two:

  1. Return back to corporate work at the end of the 6 months and run my personal development business at the side, until the point where it is established enough to do it full time.
  2. Focus full force on running my personal development business with faith that I will be able to start earning sufficient money within 1-2 years (I will be out of my savings by then).

I assessed the two options.

Option 1 seems to be the more realistic and logical path. With this, I will no longer be bounded by the constraints of money. However, if I am to go back to work, I will definitely not have as much time to write for my blog and do my personal development work. The nature of my corporate work is highly demanding and time consuming; in the past I was constantly traveling and spending late nights and sometimes weekends working. I will likely be miserable if I am to return to corporate work.

Option 2, on the other hand, is emotionally rewarding since I will continue to pursue my purpose full time. However, it is financially risky. Not only will I still be facing the same financial limitations in the meantime, I am also banking my whole life on the success of my business within a fixed time frame. What if I am not able to earn money from it after 1 year? What if it takes longer than 1 year to fully take off? I will be caught scrambling around to keep my basic needs secure by that time.

When I looked within myself for answers, the dominant, idealism streak in me was screaming to go for option 2. “Just throw everything you got and everything will turn out fine and dainty in the end! This is what you truly want to do and it’s what makes you the happiest!”

The logical and practical side of me advised me option 1 is the better, wiser choice. If you want to help people grow, you need to ensure that you secure your own needs first. How am you supposed to be of service otherwise?

It tore me apart, to have it literally boil down to between my purpose or money.

For money to become the single pressing concern as I am pursuing my purpose – It is like a bitter irony. Instead of being able to fully focus on living my purpose and let the money flow in in its own time and place, I felt like I was pressurized to identify ways to earn money through it. By tying a monetary value to my passion, I felt like I was making a travesty out of it. I hated being caught in a situation where I had to keep thinking about money, when I was pursuing something much higher. It was really quite frustrating.

Eventually, I asked myself the deal breaker question – ‘What is the option that will ensure the long-term sustainability of my pursuit? What is the option that will guarantee that I will be able to achieve my pursuit in the long run?‘ When I thought about it in that manner, it was apparent that option one was the winner.

A State of Deep Disappointment

When I came to the realization, an overwhelming wave of emptiness washed over me. When I quit my job, I was sincerely hoping I would be able to run ahead with my purpose forever. Instead, now I have to return to a corporate career which I’m no longer fully passionate about. I honestly felt like I dropped all the way down to an empty, dank pit, all by myself.

While I had no doubt that I would eventually reach my end goal given time and effort, I just felt so.. tired all of a sudden. I felt tired thinking that I was already at my goal, then realizing that it is suddenly pulled far away from me, into an ambiguous future. I felt tired realizing there were suddenly so many things standing between me and my goal. I felt tired having to figure out ways to secure a living when I am trying to pursue a higher purpose. I felt tired to have to return to corporate work after quitting it to fully pursue my passion. Suddenly, everything that I was doing and fighting for all along just became meaningless.

Dealing with My Disappointment

For the first few days, I wasn’t in the mood or state to think, feel or do anything. I was functioning on the outside, but I felt dead on the inside. I would just lead through my day in auto-pilot, without caring or feeling much about anything at all. When I was engaged in other activities or out with friends, it partially took my mind off the topic; but when I was by myself there was clearly a void inside. It was really a very empty feeling. It wasn’t even about feeling bad or negative. It was just empty; like a state of apathy.

After a few days of living with an abyss though, I decided it was enough. I am normally a very vibrant, upbeat person and it felt sick feeling so empty. I started to pick myself up and think about how I could improve the state I was in.

I did a lot of introspection by myself regarding my situation. I shared my thoughts with several good friends and talked through it with them. It was interesting, getting different perspectives from each of them. One of the things I love most about communicating with other people is the diversity of thoughts you get from the interaction; and the responses you get is always a reflection of a certain aspect about themselves.

Through these, I received several key insights.

My Revelations About My Situation

I realized the reason why I was so disappointed was because I had become overly attached to my end goal. I had narrowly defined ‘living my purpose’ to only happen when I was running my personal development business full-time. But this should not be the case at all. If I had to go back to corporate work given my circumstances, it did not mean I was not living my purpose. If anything, going back to work allows me to live my purpose, since it secures me financially in the meantime. It is actually the best course of action that allows me to lead my purpose within my circumstances.

I was getting too caught up in the belief that ‘living my purpose’ only happens when I have my business up and running full time. That’s defining it too simplistically. Living my purpose is a way of being; something that translates into many different actions, from my day-to-day decisions, my interactions with people, my thoughts and feelings, and so on. As long as I ensure everything I do everyday is in alignment with that, nothing else really matters.

When I came to this realization, the end goals suddenly lose their significance. I mean it’s nice and all when everything takes off, but it really doesn’t matter much since I’m already living in the moment right now.

Additionally, while I initially saw the decision as a setback vs what I’m trying to achieve, I realized that is really isn’t. Becoming aware of all these barriers is actually a progress in itself. Instead of swimming around in my original belief that everything can be up and running in 6 months, I can now better act toward my goals with the new lessons I have. This experience gave me new knowledge, new insights and a new perspective. As I incorporate these new lessons into my actions, I am in fact progressing toward my goals, and not moving away from it as I had initially thought.

The combined epiphanies shook me out of void I was in. I found my feeling of disappointment was totally redundant and misplaced. Suddenly, I began to regain the passion I have for life – in fact, it became even stronger.

Life after the experience

In the past few weeks after I shook out of my disappointment, it feels like I have been operating at a totally different, higher consciousness which I never had before. It is an increased sense of awareness and clarity about myself and everything around me.

This experience has definitely made me realize many lessons and blind spots which I was previously not privy to; things that made me grow more as a person. It is a very empowering feeling; as if nothing can ever get me down anymore. The feeling is extremely, extremely liberating. If you have overcome a stage of deep disappointment in your life before, you will know what I mean. It’s like what Henry Ward Beecher meant when he says “One’s best success comes after their greatest disappointments” and what Friedrich Nietzsche meant by “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”.

If you are wondering about the outcome of this blog after I return to work, not to worry – I will continue to write on this blog and work on my personal development business in full force, whether or not I’m returning to corporate work. It is my core passion and vocation. In a matter of time, the foundations of this business will strengthen to the point where I will be able to do this full-time, as my career. 😀

Update on 10 Mar ‘09: I’ve decided to pursue my personal development work full-time and not return to a corporate day job. 🙂 For more details, read the post Embracing My Passion.

This is the last part of my 4-part series on dealing with disappointment.

  1. Why Disappointment Is Good
  2. Are You Letting Your Disappointments Destroy You?
  3. How to Deal With Disappointment
  4. My Experience with Disappointment and How I Overcame It

Image: Desert

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