Among all the “keys to success” that get tossed around like the Bit-O-Honeys in a Halloween candy variety pack (Butterfinger, 100 Grand, and then there’s this garbage) one of the least helpful pieces of unwarranted advice I’ve ever heard is that success is all about never getting discouraged. Really? Have you ever tried never getting discouraged? I mean, I’ve been discouraged before, so does that mean I can’t be successful? Of course not, and actually I believe I’m better for it. Discouragement– along with fear and anger and disappointment and all those other things happy people aren’t supposed to be– is a feeling, and if you’ve ever been a human you know that you can’t just not feel feelings (present sociopaths excluded, of course). You can learn to manage your feelings, of course, and control your reactions, but if you really want to know what to do with discouragement, the correct answer is to let yourself feel it.
Do you remember being a kid and wanting nothing more than to shovel sugar by the spoonful? Maybe I was just a terrible child. But since corporate America hasn’t taken my soul yet I remember being a kid and I remember sneaking from the blue sugar jar my mom kept below the spice rack. Like any good mom, she always warned me that too much sugar would make me sick. And, like every good mom, she was always right. Anyway, as I grew up, and much to my inner 10 year-old’s chagrin, I no longer craved sugar constantly– in fact, I’ve found that a lot of times I don’t want things to be sweet. Can you imagine sitting down to a meal where everything’s the same flavor? Gross.
I know it’s not a perfect comparison, but as an analogy I hope it makes some sense. Can you imagine only ever feeling one feeling? Not only would it become bland over time, but you’d be incapable of experiencing the diversity of life. And discouragement– just like joy or fear or anger or any other emotion– is an important “flavor” in the whole mix. Now, I get that it’s not productive to wallow in self-pity or allow discouragement to take control and render you incapable of progress. But it still demands to be felt. And if you try to suppress those kinds of feelings, not only are you damaging yourself in a way that will come back to bite you later, but you are robbing yourself of an invaluable opportunity for growth and self-mastery. Did you even watch Inside Out!!??
Anyway, to make a long rant long, successful people don’t just not ever feel discouraged. You’re thinking of robots. Rather, the most successful people take every feeling and every emotion and every up and down and use them all to learn and grow. Besides, you’d get a cramp if you tried to smile all the time.