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Don’t Panic Over Disappointments… See Their Hidden Opportunities Instead

I had a major disappointment this week when a health procedure didn’t go as expected. But, I responded strategically and discovered that this disappointment was actually a series of hidden opportunities. You can borrow this strategy the next time you are disappointed; you just have to start by saying DAMN!

Learn more in this week’s Goal Success by Choice.

Amuse Bouche

Before we get to today’s post, I offer you this light “amuse-bouche” to entertain your mind before we get down to business. Like any other amuse-bouche, you may hate my “dad joke,” but it is worth every penny that you paid for it, right?

I realize that a shark can swim much faster than me. But, the truth is, I can run much faster than a shark. So, in a triathlon, it would all come down to who is the better cyclist.

Goal Success by Choice

Do you have dreams that you are trying to make come true? Do you have a goal that you are trying to crush? Success doesn’t happen by chance.  Success is a series of choices that can make you unstoppable. Goal Success by Choice helps you make these choices to move you closer to your goals.

Are you ready to help build a world where no goal dies of loneliness?

Don’t Panic Over Disappointments… See Their Hidden Opportunities Instead

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.

Beverly Sills

Unless you are brand new to Operation Melt, you will know all too well that numbers matter to me when it comes to my goals. I first launched the blog to chronicle my weight loss journey. My goal was to lose over 100 pounds in under a year without giving up anything I enjoyed. As I described in one of my earliest posts, my entire approach was based on a classic quote from Lord Kelvin.

I am an operations guy to my very core. That is just how I think. So, I am going to build my strategy around a quote from Lord Kelvin (later restated by Peter Drucker) that has worked for me in the past. “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” Or, stated differently, if I can measure it, I can manage it. That is what I am going to do. I will measure everything!

Let’s do this my way (with some help from Lord Kelvin),
Operation Melt, 6/19/2017

As much as I wish it wasn’t the case, sometimes these all-important numbers don’t do what I expect or want. Even worse, I occasionally have a setback so significant that it causes a major disappointment. That happened this week.

This week was supposed to be my next Ask Coach Tony post, but the week’s events caused me to deviate from that plan. I decided it was more important to share my big disappointment and the hidden opportunities it presented.

An Exciting Day Takes a Disappointing Turn

Not since December of 2018 have I been so excited about a medical appointment. That appointment, which marked the end of my eighteen-month weight loss journey, was the day that I would get my blood taken to evaluate my progress after losing 130 pounds. I just knew the results would be great and the dose of external validation that I needed to tie a bow on being proud of myself. And those results didn’t disappoint; everything was amazing!

This week’s appointment at the Ohio State University Exercise Science lab was a little different. I participated in a DEXA scan, a low-dose x-ray scan of my entire body to evaluate its composition. This scan is the most accurate evaluation of bone density, lean body mass, and body fat percentage.

I have a tenuous relationship with my body fat percentage. Every six months or so, my trainer uses calipers to measure my fat percentage and how it has changed over time. My first measurement was in the 17% range, and I got as low as 12% on these tests (see Week 92: Big Week! and Shoulding all over my happiness). Over the past couple of years, this evaluation has yielded inexplicably increasing values.

Based on the inherent flaws in the caliper testing, my trainer introduced me to DEXA scans. She and my doctor both believed this would be a better assessment and might get to the bottom of the increases. We all expected they were false increases and that I would be pleasantly surprised.

The DEXA scan procedure was very easy. I walked into the lab, and we reviewed my history, previous measurements, a high-level summary of daily activity and such. Then I took off my shoes, electronics and all metal and laid down on a table. Over the next few minutes, the DEXA scanner passed over my body and built a complete digital image. Once the procedure was done, I put everything back on, and the technician reviewed my results with me.

I could see on her face that she was struggling with how to share the results. She then directly said, “I’m trying to figure out the best way of approaching this because the results are so different from what you expected.” Ouch! My body fat percentage was way higher than I thought it would be; certainly not the 12% from a couple of years ago. My body fat percentage is so significantly higher that I don’t even want to share the actual number. Suffice it to say, the guess you probably have in your head right now is way lower than the result.

I was supremely disappointed and pretty let down.

Hidden Opportunities

As disappointed as I was at the moment, I am feeling much better just forty-eight hours later. Yes, I am still disappointed, but I discovered that this experience was really an exciting opportunity in disguise. Does that seem like a quick turnaround?

You see… this isn’t the first disappointment I have had with my own performance or the numbers associated with a goal of mine. It happens. The more you try to improve yourself, the more disappointments you will experience. Disappointment and failure are part of the process and are building blocks to success.

Because I have experienced disappointments in the past, I have learned how to respond. While I still don’t love getting big let-downs, I have developed a strategy that helps uncover the hidden opportunities buried inside disappointments.

This strategy, which I will share in detail in the following few sections, includes four steps. It all starts with looking at your disappointment and saying, “DAMN!”

  • Don’t skip the feelings
  • Alter where you’re looking
  • More information
  • New Plan

One quick word of caution… when I share this strategy for handling disappointments, I am mainly talking about the run-of-the-mill disappointments in our lives. I do not want to discount that there are major disappointments and setbacks in life for which this strategy may not be enough.

Don’t Skip the Feelings

If you are a high achiever, and I am guessing you are if you are reading my blog, this step is going to seem unusual to you. I will admit that my Enneagram type 3 & type 6 brain struggles a lot with it too. But, we are human beings, and we all have feelings. Acknowledging, not wallowing in, those feelings in the moment instead of ignoring them will be much healthier and more productive. This will get you back to your goals much quicker.

Excerpt from my book, Operation Melt:

"This brings me to the second lesson that I learned during this journey. It is a mental journey, as much or more, than it is a physical journey. You need to keep your mind in a good place in order to be able to stick with it and make the progress you want to make."

Click here to read more.

I started acknowledging my feelings through a bit of introspection. I took a notebook, walked to the park and started writing. I asked myself, “how am I feeling right now,” and then I wrote what came to mind. It was a blend of many points that started with one of the following:

  • “I am disappointed because…”
  • “I am embarrassed because…”
  • “I am frustrated because…”
  • “I am confused because…”
  • “I am overwhelmed because…”
  • “I am afraid because…”

You don’t need to do anything with what you write. The goal is to acknowledge how you are feeling so you can move on in a healthy frame of mind.

I also found it helpful to share a little bit with friends, especially my personal trainer, just to get other perspectives. But, I shared this disappointment a bit less than in past experiences. My under-sharing was driven by various factors, including knowing that not everybody can fully empathize with this type of disappointment. They do their best, but this is more of a function of how I’m wired and harder to understand.

One last tip on managing the feelings, and then I’ll move on. In these moments, you may need to use your mind control powers that I described in my April 2021 post entitled Mind Control Powers:

Every one of us possesses the power to control minds and this power comes in very handy more often than you would think. It is one of the superpowers that we can use to make our dreams come true. [These powers are] how I pivot my brain from the moments of utter crap to the place where I need it to be to succeed. You don’t need to prevent yourself from ever being in a negative place, you can’t control that, life happens. The secret to mind control is how you react when your brain isn’t doing what you want.

Mind Control Powers
Operation Melt, 4/11/2021

So, find what works well for you to pull your brain out of that downward spiral of negative thoughts and get back to a positive view of your situation.

When all else fails, I have found that drugging yourself is an effective tool to interrupt the suck. I don’t mean putting some elicit external chemical into your body. There is a natural “feel good” chemical inside you just waiting to be released. When I go for a run or other hard but not exhausting workout, I find that my mood improves. This happens because my body has released a hefty dose of endorphins which trigger positive feelings. So, get moving, and it will help you get back to positivity.

Adjust Your Focus

Speaking of positivity, the second step in this strategy is all about a choice you can make to reduce your disappointments in life. While this choice will sound simple, it requires daily awareness and constant work.

Have you stopped to consider what actually causes disappointment in life? A disappointment stems from an instance when reality doesn’t match your expectations or thoughts. In my case, I expected a relatively low body fat measurement, given all of the work I have put into my body over the past five years. I had visions of sharing the information with my network and celebrating it. When that wasn’t my reality, I was disappointed.

It turns out that I caused my own disappointment through a choice I made or, really, didn’t make. I was too focused on the wrong thing; I was focused on the gap. Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin hardy explain this mistake in their book, The Gap And The Gain. Here is a summary:

Most people, especially highly ambitious people, are unhappy because of what they measure themselves against. We all have an ideal, which is like a moving target always out of reach. When we measure ourselves against our ideal, we’re in “The Gap.” However, when we measure ourselves against our previous selves — the person we were when we set our goals and ideals — we will be in “The Gain.” In “The Gain” we can more clearly see the progress we’ve made, and therefore will experience the happiness, confidence, and satisfaction that come from achieving—positive, powerful emotions that will motivate us to pursue new goals and ultimately become increasingly successful.

When I got my results and was disappointed, I compared reality to an unrealistic expectation. Had I been focused on the gain, I would have looked at the results compared to where I started in my journey. I was 325 pounds and completely unhealthy. Since then, I have lost over 130 pounds and added over twenty pounds of muscle back onto my body. I know I added the muscle because I am capable of doing so much more now than I ever thought possible. I have changed my life so much that I elected to spend $80 to have my body scanned to figure out how to approach the next phase of my journey.

I was so focused on the “gap” that I almost missed a key ah-ha buried in my results. I started this journey with a body fat percentage of nearly sixty! This and many other facts, plus an adjustment of my focus to the “gain,” mean that I am seriously kicking ass! Why in the world am I disappointed? I am a beast!

More Information

I mentioned that I nearly missed a big ah-ha buried in the results from my scan, but there was much more than just this one important detail. In fact, the full results report was packed with valuable data about my current body composition and health status. I just needed to digest and process all of this data. But, I was missing some pieces that I needed to find before solving this puzzle.

I needed more information!

Instead of falling into despair about the results, I unleashed my curiosity. I spent hours learning more about what the results meant. Then I dug a little deeper and used a bunch of online fitness calculators to help me connect the dots. I wanted to find out why the results are what they are and what is causing my body to do what it’s doing. Plus, I looked at multiple sources for each piece of information because I know that not everything on the Internet is true!

In most cases in life, more information and knowledge generally reduces the sting of disappointments. Instead of letting your mind wander into “I just suck” territory, use that energy for a more productive effort. Dedicate it to getting smarter about the underlying causes and possible solutions. Even reading or hearing other people talk about their similar experiences can be pretty helpful.

If your brain starts going to negative places and concluding that you are the problem, you need to stop it as quickly as possible. Prove your brain wrong from the start by feeding it more information.

New Plan

So things didn’t go how you had hoped and expected. What the hell are you going to do about it? Are you just going to wallow in self-pity? Are you going to give up after working so hard to get here? Of course not!

Excerpt from my book, Reflections on Leadership:

"Do your best to succeed every day. When you fail, spend some time reflecting on the lessons in that failure. Take those lessons, and apply them to the next iteration of your plan!"

Click here to read more.

That’s what the final step in my DAMN strategy requires you to take action.

What are you going to do now?

How are you going to modify your approach, so you get the results you want?

It is time for a New Plan!

After a day or two of processing my DEXA scan results, I had come to a new conclusion. My results and all of the additional information I consumed were an opportunity.

I am using this data to do a mid-year refresh of my goals and my fitness plan. More importantly, I am using this data to pivot into a new phase of post-weight-loss, healthy living. I won’t share all the details, but I have celebrated myself and my success a little bit. I have pivoted into a lower-stress but still aggressive approach to maintaining and building on my gains.

I took a disappointment, added a bit of “activator” energy, and transformed it into a new plan for myself. This new plan is actually a win and something to celebrate.

Information without action is just wasting your time. This applies to getting medical results, reading books, taking classes and any other information collection venue. Do you want to waste your time and just make yourself feel bad? Of course not!

You need a new plan!

I Know a Shortcut

But, wait… why not just jump right to the new plan step? Why do you need D, A and M? Why can’t you take a shortcut?

If you try to jump right to the end of the process, your new plan is far less likely to be effective. 

  • If you haven’t processed your feelings, your new plan will be based on emotion.
  • If you are mechanically focused on “the gap,” your new plan will be based on fear and frustration. 
  • If you haven’t taken the time to collect information, your new plan will be missing essential facts.

When reacting to a big disappointment, the only way past it is through it. If you try to take a shortcut, you will likely be back in this same spot before you know it.

So What?

I had a major disappointment this week when a health procedure didn’t go as expected. But, I responded strategically and discovered that this disappointment was actually a series of hidden opportunities. You can borrow this strategy the next time you are disappointed; you just have to start by saying DAMN!

Need a partner to help you through the process? I’m your DAMN guy!

Click Here to learn more about my Operation Melt coaching services.

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Published inGoal Success by Choice

Disclaimer: The Operation Melt website and blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information provided on this website is intended for general consumer understanding and entertainment only. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. As health and nutrition research continuously evolves, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of any information presented on this website.

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