Rejection 101: How to Not Get What you Want and Still be OK

I went for something I really wanted recently. Something I’d let myself day dream about. Something i’d visualised myself doing. I’d trained for it, altered my lifestyle to achieve it and made sacrifices to get me where I wanted. When I thought about getting it, I felt kind of….sparkly. I was determined to achieve this that I thought I had all the building blocks in place.

And I didn’t get it.

It doesn’t matter what it was. The reasons why I didn’t get it aren’t important. What matters is the lesson i learned that I’m hoping will give you some strength too.

It’s funny how we convince ourselves that our mental health can rest on achieving a goal. “I’ll be happier when I get this project out of the way” “If I find a partner, life will be so much better” “Two more weeks till holiday and it will all be ok” “If i just get this promotion everything will start to improve”. There are countless examples in life where we place our happiness in the hands of the future and spend our time living a reality that may never come to pass. But when we do this, we rob ourselves the chance to be happy with things just as they are.

Now don’t get me wrong, ambition and drive are fantastic qualities. Part of what separates us from the birds and the bees is our ability to project into the future, imagine alternatives and make decisions on more than animal instinct. Ambitions and goals are the drives that bring us people who change the world, break new barriers, they are the traits of feisty go-getters who refuse to give up. The world needs those guys! They’re fun at parties and don’t take anybody’s shit!

I would really like to party with Oprah and Tina Turner

The problem lies when this ambition is something we hang our self-esteem on. We can so easily convince ourselves that “I will be happy when {insert your personal hopes/dreams/goals here}” but this implies that happiness is something we get and then keep forever. We start goal-posting our happiness, putting it off in the future on certain terms. But what is a far more sustainable idea of happiness is using it as an approach to life. Finding joy in the everyday. We take steps towards this by practicing gratitude and being present.

When the dust had settled for me, I realised that although I didn’t achieve this goal… the world was still turning. There was no need for me to question myself because what had lead me to that moment was believing in myself, showing dedication and passion. Those are things to be proud of no matter what the outcome.

But as great an approach as this is…. I struggled to know what to do next. It wasn’t that this experience had knocked my confidence or had made me question my value. Rejection didn’t leave me broken just … lost. This goal had given me direction, something to aim for. Without this part of my plan coming together, I struggled to know what to do next.

You see, i’d been doing everything right. I’d put in effort, had confidence in myself and pursued all these opportunities that came my way. I’ve talked before about the magic of when to say “Fuck it and change” but what happens when grit and effort isn’t enough? When you’re using your energy pushing for the things you want and…. you still don’t get them?

I went for dinner with a friend and we caught up about my recent experience. In between tucking into nachos I told her how frustrated i felt to put so much effort into something and to not get anything back.

In between drinks, my friend asked me if I’d ever heard of the law of allowing?

“Don’t you mean attraction?” I asked, trying my best to blink back tears in a particularly busy branch of Wahaca. *DISCLAIMER: I’m not ashamed to cry, but i prefer not to do it in Mexican chain restaurants

You’ve heard of the law of attraction right? The idea that what you put out into the world you get back. That all your thoughts eventually come to pass. Think of it a bit like karma. I couldn’t understand why despite doing all I could… things hadn’t gone right.

“No. The law of allowing. You’re putting out all this energy and determination, which is great. But how about listening? The law of allowing is the principle of allowing thing to happen and having acceptance for the way things are. The universe is trying to tell you something. There are more opportunities and hints about what life has in store than you realise. Try listening and let things be as they are”

Ok so maybe i’ve lost you in some hippie mumbo jumbo. But if you think about it, it makes total sense. We can put all of our efforts into what we want, we can have drive, goals and ambitions but sometime the hardest thing to comes to term with is that it’s just not meant for us yet. Maybe rejection is a sign to try something new. A sign that we were pursuing the wrong thing for ourselves. That something better is around the corner.

To me this is an idea that is rooted in not complaining, lamenting what we could have had or feeling directionless but something that if we give it a chance, can empower us to take a breath and learn to be here in this moment.

It’s the difference between being bitter and being accepting.

Stress is born out of wanting to be somewhere other than where you are, this idea of allowing helps us to accept our current situation. It turns the problem on it’s head and let’s us learn where we can and not getting frustrated with the position we find ourselves in. This idea is not about putting up with crap situations but learning to pause and take in all of life lessons. We get to save our energy not for being angry, but for growing.

Maybe I still have things left to learn. Maybe the realisations that have come to pass will be far more valuable to me than if everything had just gone smoothly. On my way home I couldn’t help but think to myself (Christ i sound like Carrie Bradshaw), that Mick Jagger had a point. You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need.