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.

Caitie 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

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