When Options Look Disappointing

by Alina on October 31, 2016

in Decision-making, Happiness, Power


Turbulent September gave way to contemplative October: deciding when to say “yes”, and where to take distance. October has been about choosing options that luckily work, and minimizing disappointment of letting go of good alternatives.

What if all your options seem disappointing rather than inspiring, though?

I know that with the Presidential Elections coming up, many people are bound to be disappointed, regardless of the outcome. So, let’s talk about disappointment, and ways to deal with it.

“I will be deeply disappointed if [insert a candidate’s name] wins the election” seems to be a leitmotif of political conversations in the US.

“I am disappointed in myself, because I should be doing [something more/better/faster]” is a frequent theme of incredibly talented people who wear many hats.

“I am afraid to disappoint you” heard recently, independently, from several people I adore.

On the surface, these seem to be different types of disappointment: disappointing someone you love, being disappointed in someone/something external, and disappointing yourself. Yet, they are all connected to one idea: fear of failure.

When all your options look disappointing, it may seem like you will fail no matter which option you choose. So, how do you make a choice when all available options seem to lead to failure?

Take on a project with a lot of travel and barely see your kids, or be here for the kids, and miss an interesting consulting opportunity?

Maintain an intellectually stimulating friendship that doesn’t always feel good, or take distance to feel better, and forego potential personal growth?

Vote for a candidate with whom you disagree, or for the one you don’t respect?

Here are two strategies to consider as you’re choosing between options that seem to be disappointing:

  1. Look at what you are gaining with each option rather than at what you’re losing. If you are not in a position to generate additional options (for example, if you can’t add more candidates to a ballot), consider the positive changes resulting from each option. Our fear of losing what we have is much greater than our desire to gain something new, which is why our minds naturally attend to potential losses rather than potential gains. Make a conscious effort to consider what you will gain as a result of picking each option, and only then make your decision. The decision will feel better.
  2. Follow your values. What do you truly value? With what would you fill your life, if it could be only one thing? Kindness? Strength? Honesty? Excitement? Success? Recognition? Peace? Mastery? Love? Challenge? Loyalty? Adoration? Self-reliance? Growth? Relationships? I know it’s difficult to choose just one. List several, and rate them, in the order from most important to least important. What is important to you in your environment, in your interactions? Consider what you value as you’re choosing between your options. Determine which of your values each option supports. For example, if you take a promotion, you align with your values of mastery and growth. If you skip the promotion, you align with your values of peace and relationships. (Or not?) What do you want to create more of in your life?

When you feel that your options are disappointing, when you are afraid to fail, go back to the basics. Go back to what you know for sure to be true. It’s not important what your options are; it’s important who you are. “I am the person who believes in …”

Choose based on who you are, based on what you believe, and based on what you want to see more of in your life. It is the only way not to be disappointed with yourself, even when you may be disappointed with your options.

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