Getting to the Other Side of Discouragement

by  Guest Author  |  Self Leadership
Getting to the Other Side of Discouragement

Let’s talk about discouragement, shall we?

If you and I sifted through the dustbin of history, I bet we’d find a whole bunch of great books, ideas, companies, hopes that wound up there because someone got discouraged.

I’d have some stuff in that dustbin. Maybe you would, too.

And, you know, I think I’ve had enough of that. I’m done with being outdone by discouragement.

Not so far back on the calendar, I left a stable job as a Senior Foreign Policy Advisor in Congress to take a dream deferred out of storage and put it into the world.

Last April, I launched The Lightning Notes, a short daily post to help us move the world forward. It features great ideas and striking stories to remind us that we matter and that improving the world is our matter.

I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m flying this little biplane while I build it. And there’s been plenty of discouraging turbulence along the way.

Which isn’t surprising. For surely where there’s risk of any kind, there’s likely to be discouragement of some kind. Things don’t go as planned, people don’t respond as hoped, parades get rained on, insults get added to injury.

Faithful to its etymology, discouragement can knock the courage right out of us. And leave us down for the count.

But here’s the plain truth about we humans: We can be knocked down, but not out.

And a big difference, perhaps the difference, between the things that exist in the world and the things that wind up in history’s dustbin is this: Someone somewhere let discouragement get the best of them and someone somewhere didn’t.

So, if we’re going to take risks – which are, I believe, a pantry staple for a life well-lived – let’s take them knowing that discouragement will be a part of the process, but not the end of the process. Unless we allow it to be.

The question, then, to ask ourselves is:

When we’ve been knocked down by discouragement and courage’s been whacked clear out of us, what do we need to give ourselves to get back up?

Me, I put myself on a strict Lift Up Diet: I spend my time with the people who lift me up. Fill my mind with the ideas that lift me up. Go to the places, listen to the music, read the writing that lifts me up.

All that, until I’ve got some courage back in my bones. From there, it’s not long until I’m on sturdy enough footing to sift cleareyed through the why’s of discouragement, see what I can learn from them, then get on with the business of living.

To risk, but really, to live is to know the ache and the pain of things not going as hoped. It comes with the territory of being human.
So, we will have discouragement, you and I. But let’s not let it have us.

Because we have to get back to work. And go make something exist in the world.

CaitiCaitiee Whelan is the Founder/Noter-in-Chief of The Lightning Notes, a short daily post to help us move the world forward (sign-up for the weekly newsletter here!). Prior to that, she was a Senior Foreign Policy Advisor in Congress, co-founded a school in India, and briefly raised pigs in Italy.

Editor’s Note: I am thrilled that Caitie accepted our offer of a guest post. I first learned about her through Whitney Johnson’s Latest Thinking. I subscribed shortly after learning about The Lightning Notes and quickly saw why Whitney was so impressed. ~ pk

What strategies have YOU used to get to the other side of discouragement? Tell me about it in the comments!
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Caitie Whelan

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What People Are Saying

Jane Anderson  |  10 May 2016  |  Reply

When I get discouraged, I remember that life is a contact sport and if I let it, it will beat me down, but I won’t let it. I might have a moment of pity and give myself 30 seconds to feel grief, but then I get over myself and figure out what to do next. A few habits I’ve done for so long now, I don’t remember when I started, but they keep me steady when I get knocked off course. *Attitude of gratitude – always *Focus on what I have, not on what I’ve lost. Capitalize on what I can do, not on what I cannot *A setback is not a stayback *Begin again – it’s never too late to have a new beginning

Caitie  |  10 May 2016  |  Reply

Great stuff, Jane! Thanks for this. Especially love the focus on what we have, not what we’ve lost.

Margy KJ  |  10 May 2016  |  Reply


It is very (dare I say) encouraging to read about how useful failure and discouragement can be for our overall growth and influence in the world. I appreciate the notion that we need to toughen up a bit in order to create things in this world that will last.

A few years ago when I was joining a new community, I was terrified to put myself out there. I felt so out of my element and just kept repeating to myself the saying “growth begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” Knowing that the pain and discomfort are part of the process of becoming a better me makes it easier to endure!

I will also say pregnancy taught me a lot about that. Being violently ill for 9 months really teaches you about patience and sitting with the discomfort with the knowledge that the end result will be well worth it.

I loved this post! Thanks for contributing.

Caitie  |  10 May 2016  |  Reply

Margy ~

I think that idea of growth beginning at the edge of where we’re comfortable is so true! Good on you for putting yourself out there. And what an amazing, amazing story on your pregnancy. Thank you for all this!

John E. Smith  |  12 May 2016  |  Reply

Hi, Caitie:) – excellent post on an important part of being human.

Apparently your experience raising Italian pigs was quite thought-provoking:)

More seriously, your message that discouragement is part of the process, rather than an interruption of progress, is very important for us all to keep in mind.

Karen Kimsey-House recently shared this recipe in an interview around personal practices to keep us going through the messy and hard stuff:

1. Do inspiring work
2. Hang around with inspiring people
3. Practice gratitude

I was struck by the order of these elements. Work came first, which at first seemed wrong. However, as I reflected further, I realized that our work is what we do and it is usually the largest part of our life. Engaging in inspirational work often results in a stronger sense of purpose and value, simply because we are living for something beyond ourselves. Everything else can flow naturally from that.

I enjoyed your post tremendously and am on my way over to visit The Lightning Notes:)


Caitie  |  12 May 2016  |  Reply


Thanks for this! Karen Kimsey-House’s recipe is beautiful – she hits so many of the big points! Very glad you shared it and your reflection on it.

(And methinks she probably didn’t even need to raise Italian pigs to come to it!)



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