Handling disappointment with a process is critical to navigating life with grace and class. For a successful journey, you need to be resilient.
Today, amateur players across the country will sit by the phone, anxiously waiting a call from a MLB team alerting them that they have been drafted to play professional baseball. For every man receiving that call, thousands will not. For that latter group, management of disappointment will be critical. From lifehack.com:
Learning to deal with disappointment is part of a fulfilling life. Disappointment is natural and normal, and everyone will experience it to some extent in their life because our expectations often don’t align with what actually happens.
Whether the phone call comes in or not, baseball is a game of disappointments. Learning to weather them is the difference between success and failure.
My rookie season in Detroit, I made the team out of spring training in Lakeland, Florida and began the season with the Major League Club at Tiger Stadium. A few weeks into the season, I was called into the manager’s office and sat with the GM and manager. They told me they were sending me to AAA Toledo until they could trade a current player on the roster. I was bitter. I thought I was superior to the other player, that I gave the Tigers a better chance to win every night . The other men in the room expressed the salary implications, my obvious optionality, the fact that I was several years this other player’s junior and various other variables.
None of these were soothing for me, but it really didn’t matter what I thought. I was going to play in the International League the following day. In baseball, this is a “suck on it” moment.
I had a choice at this point. I could do any number of things to cope. I could pout, drink copious amounts of scotch, bitch about my situation, point fingers or work. I put my head down and thought about Tiger Stadium constantly as I hit the cage the following night in Toledo. From Forbes.com:
Research and common sense tell us that top competitive athletes succeed because of their physical talents and their dedication to training. However, they also succeed because of their dexterity in dealing with the psychological pressures of a sport. In short, mental toughness and resilience are tremendously important for any athlete aiming to be the best in a sport.
Make no mistake; this action step didn’t remove the disappointment or the anguish of not being on a big league field. In fact, in some ways, it was like salt in the wound. Striking a baseball off a tee in silence after every other man had left the ballpark was lonely. It was me and my thoughts. Every time I hit a ball with backspin and carry off the screen, I believed that I belonged 60 miles north on I-75. That crushed me. In that moment, I had to recommit to my vision.
Disappointment is the not the end of the road, it is merely a setback on what will eventually be a great and inspiring journey. So when we have those momentary setbacks, when we feel disappointed or discouraged, it is helpful to think about our larger vision and recommit to it. A larger vision isn’t defeated by a momentary disappointment. In fact, a disappointment can be a very valuable experience because it serves as education, thereby making us more capable of dealing with what the future may bring.
A few weeks later, a trade was made, and I was called up for good. Independent of the outcome, which was very much out of my control, the process, which I steered, was sound. I took care of my body to the best of my ability and worked my mind. With this plan intact, I could remain confident and maintain accountability. From Forbes.com:
Part of being resilient is that you feel, at least to some degree, that you have control over your response to a situation (even if not the situation itself), and that you can problem-solve whatever challenges come up. When you’re out of shape physically, it can feel like you’re not in control of your body, let alone the stressors in your life. So just the act of getting in shape can be extremely empowering. “It may seem counter-intuitive,” says Ben Michaelis, PhD, a psychologist in New York City, “but you can become mentally tougher by becoming physically stronger, through cardiovascular exercise. The data indicating the link between physical and emotional health is airtight at this point.
For those players who don’t get to celebrate a phone call in the next three days, recognize that your dream isn’t dead. Not being drafted will undoubtedly change your course, but it needn’t debilitate you. Take a moment to feel the sting, then get your ass back up, recommit to your vision and fight.