We live in a world overfocused on success. Everywhere you look, you’ll find people talking about their wins, awards, and accolades. When it comes to rejection or disappointment, however, you’ll be hard-pressed to find people willing to share their stories of “failure” with quite as much gusto. The reality is, you can’t go through life without a few no’s along the way. What’s more, we need closed doors from time to time.
As a thought experiment, I recently asked myself, “What if every opportunity I pursued in the next year was met with a yes?” I wondered, would I choose that over uncertainty and possible disappointment? After a moment of consideration, I decided I would not. Closed doors and no’s are part of life. And, while I can’t say I enjoy the feeling of rejection or disappointment, I am grateful for it. I wouldn’t trade the perspective or learning I have gained from closed doors for the comfort of getting what I wanted every time.
Picking yourself up and reframing rejection can be challenging. When I need help managing what I call “head trash”—those voices in my head telling me I’m not good enough—here’s what I do.
1. CELEBRATE PAST SUCCESSES.
When a prospect says no or a business opportunity passes you by, reflect on how far you’ve come. I’ve worked with several clients over the years who confided that they keep a “feel-good” folder of emails and notes for bad days. Revisiting kind words from clients always helps me reframe a momentary setback. When I think about the clients I get to serve and the opportunities that I have had to do great work, it’s easier to feel grateful. Though life’s valleys are not exactly fun, they really do allow us to realize the peaks.
2. LEAN ON YOUR PEOPLE.
When I’m in a funk, I lean on my community of trusted family, friends, and colleagues to help me reset. They are often the ones to remind me that my identity is not in how I played my role on a single day or even a season. When they have bad days, I do the same for my friends. That’s part of the beauty of doing life with others. We’re not meant to walk through hard places all alone. We need each other to remind us of how to shake off disappointment.
3. SEARCH FOR THE LESSON.
In sales, the saying goes that the second-best response to “yes” is “no.” Most people don’t like to deliver a firm “no” to a salesperson, but instead, prefer to allude to a vague possibility of a yes down the road. A decisive “no” gives you the blessing of clarity. In these cases, you might consider asking the decision maker: “Now that it’s over, I’m curious, what could I have done differently?” Despite how sheepish you may feel, do your best to find a lesson.
Alternatively, you might find yourself experiencing a sense of relief when your offer is declined. That may be an indication that the opportunity wasn’t right for you in the first place. It’s okay to be selective about when you want to learn from rejection. Sometimes, instead of doing a thorough postmortem, the best thing to do is to simply keep moving, as one of my favorite Jay-Z song lyrics says, “on to the next one.”
4. ZOOM OUT AND THINK ABOUT THE BIGGER PICTURE.
It’s easy to get so focused on a bad day or a tough season and forget that in the grand scheme of things, our setbacks don’t doom us. As a person of faith, I’m comforted by the knowledge that God has already written the whole story. When a door closes, I believe He’s making way for what’s yet to be written.
What’s meant for you will come to you, even if it may not be on your timeline. We all face closed doors, but what you do with them could make all the difference in your attitude and in your business. How can you be working, growing, and learning as you pursue your next opportunity?
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