Have you ever wanted something so badly, with every fiber of your being?
And then not gotten it.
“It’s not fair.”
“I’m never going to get what I want.”
Disappointment. Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Despair.
When you don’t get what you want, you have two choices:
1. Resist reality. Get upset. Be disappointed. Throw a tantrum.
2. Accept reality. Have faith and trust that something even better is coming your way. Surrender.
When my daughter Eva was four years old, we visited our family in North Carolina for Thanksgiving. Playing outside one afternoon, Eva’s cousin found this neat looking prickly seed ball and both girls had a blast playing with it.
When it was time to leave, Eva really wanted that prickly seed ball.
She wanted it bad. Real bad. But her cousin did too, and her cousin had found it.
So we told Eva she couldn’t have it. And she threw a huge fit.
It was a tantrum of epic proportions.
She got so upset that she was hiccup crying and screaming at top volume in our tiny rental car as we drove away.
Stranded on the side of the road.
My husband ended up leaving me and Eva by the side of the road near where we were staying so he could go put our son down for a nap. After ten or fifteen minutes, Eva calmed down and we decided to explore this new cul-de-sac we found ourselves in.
Walking down a slight hill, we noticed one of those very same prickly seed balls. And then another. And another. And another.
We had stumbled upon a veritable cornucopia of prickly seed balls.
Eva ran amidst them shouting with joy, collecting a dozen with ease.
From disappointment to ecstatic fulfillment with the flip of a switch.
As we were walking home with our arms full of prickly seed balls, I asked Eva if she realized the lesson the Universe had just taught her.
When you don’t get what you want, there may be something even better in store for you.
We made up a song about it and skipped home singing; “when you don’t get what you want…it’s cuz the Universe has something bet-ter!”
This lesson keeps coming until we get it.
Many years ago, when I offered my very first high-end group coaching program and retreat, I had two women signed up for it (a lot less than I was hoping for). The week before the retreat, one of the women had to cancel due to a death in the family.
I was sad for her, and also incredibly disappointed that I would have to cancel the retreat. I hadn’t told either woman that only two women had signed up, because I was embarrassed and hoping more would join.
I felt like a failure.
As I was crying to my sister about it, she said; “Vanessa, you sound as though this retreat is never going to happen. Can’t you just postpone it?”
She was right. And yet, I did feel like it was never going to happen for me. I was so disappointed and devastated.
I ended up postponing the retreat for several months, and in that time, a third woman joined the group!
My “failure” ended up being a blessing in disguise.
This is often the case.
What we initially perceive as “not getting what we want” turns out to be a gift.
Last year, my favorite professor from Stanford came to an impasse with the Dean’s office and decided to retire rather than stay on in a suboptimal arrangement. Initially, she was incredibly upset and disappointed.
It was not how she expected her career to go.
Recently, we were catching up on the phone and she said; “Vanessa, something you said during that time really stuck with me as a great nugget of wisdom. You told me this might be the best thing that ever happened to my career. And you were right.”
She didn’t realize until she left Stanford that she could have an even greater impact on the world outside the academic environment.
Now she’s expanding her work in ways she never imagined and she’s happier than ever!
But first she had to get through that moment of disappointment and frustration when she wasn’t dealt the cards she anticipated.
Sometimes, we’re handed a tragedy or a big disappointment in life. It feels like nothing’s going our way.
And yet, this tragedy has a deeper purpose for us.
It’s meant to shift us, to help us change and grow and learn and possibly move in a different direction.
So today I ask you; what’s not going your way?
And….more importantly….what’s the gift, blessing or opportunity inside your disappointment?
If you were to imagine that the Universe is not giving you what you want only because it has something even better in store for you…what might that even better thing be?
Tantrum or Surrender. Which feels better?
If you don’t get what you want, you can throw a tantrum or you can surrender. The choice is yours.
Sometimes it’s important to grieve and throw a tantrum…and then surrender.
Often, it’s totally appropriate to throw a tantrum and allow ourselves to experience the grief associated with not getting what we want. I’m not suggesting you quickly gloss over those feelings of frustration or sadness.
Grieving is important work.
Once you’ve allowed yourself to feel the negative emotions of not getting what you want, then surrender and trust that something better is in store for you. Don’t bypass the tantrum if it wants to be expressed. But if you find yourself wallowing in it and not moving past the “this is not want I want” phase, it may be time to shift into; “Hmmm, how can I trust that I’m not getting what I want because I’m going to get something even better? What might that even better thing be?”
I hope you find your even better, and that it’s even better than you imagined!
P.S. If you want support navigating transition and finding your “even better,” apply to my upcoming CWYL 3 Month Career Program HERE.