What if you don’t get what you want?

I’m in the clutches of back to school for my elementary, middle schooler and high schooler, and volunteered yesterday at my sorority during recruitment. (Today is pref day, which means you go back to two parties and hopefully bid one tomorrow.) Back to school is a great time to think about expectations, and, conversely, disappointment.

What happens when we don’t get what we want? On the emotional level, we may first feel frustration, upset that we don’t have control over the outcome. Our visceral reaction can be anger, lashing out – it’s not fair! We may beat ourselves up and then we think about others we can beat up, placing the blame on them.

It’s the little things, like my daughter not finding the new shoes she wanted for back to school (which we know for a tween is a big deal). It’s not getting the electives or the teachers or the job or the new deal we wanted. It’s putting our intentions out there and, sometimes more often than not, getting a return that wasn’t what we hoped.

For those 1,000 young women going through recruitment, they may have their dreams dashed.  With only 11 houses and each side trimming the numbers each day to end up with “quota,” it’s competitive and heartbreaking.

Life can feel like one big audition and, as we learned in the Hunger Games, the odds may not always be in your favor. It happens to me, too, on all fronts: book sales, working with clients, parenting, and simply to-dos that don’t get done when I hoped they would. Here are five things I do when I don’t get what I want.

  1. Ask myself why I really wanted it. Was it ego? Sometimes it’s just our pride that’s hurt. But I often find that’s easier to brush off than something that meant a lot more in the passion department. If I set the imaginary date or goal, I have to ask how realistic it was in the first place.
  2. Take a moment to decide what to do next. After the initial hurt, it’s time to think about where to go from here. Try again? Go for something different? Having a plan can help buoy hope and set our mind in a more positive place.
  3. Move on. Dwelling on a bad situation beyond deciding what to do with the information keeps us running in place, which means no traction. If I find myself ruminating, I literally have to have a talk to myself (usually in my head.) Malena, STOP! Let it go. You can tell yourself it wasn’t meant to be, or you’ll try again or you’ll adjust your plan and go for something new, but thinking about the negative aspect won’t get you anywhere.
  4. Look at plan B, C and D. Sometimes Plan A and Plan B don’t work out. In my years as a creative writer and director, I’ve found the more ideas, the better. It’s good to have more than two options to a situation. Play them out to see which one would be best for each situation. That can actually soften the blow of getting what you want in the first place. If I were going through sorority recruitment and I knew the numbers were not in my favor due to quotas, I would know it was a smart thing to do to a) accept that I might not get the house that I want and b) keep reminding myself to keep an open mind about other houses and add more houses to my wish list. Sure, some of you reading this might not think it’s a big deal to not get into a sorority, but we go through very similar situations in the job hunt and then the literal house hunt. The processes we go through for the little and big things are psychologically much the same, though the risks and rewards may be different.
  5. Practice not sweating the small stuff. It may not seem like it, but not sweating the small stuff can actually help us not sweat the big stuff. We get that for a myriad of reasons, things may not go our way – in a single shopping trip, or finding a life partner when we had hoped, or having the baby, the job, the dream house, the fantasy we thought could be a reality. Back when I co-owned an ad agency, I used to have to almost DAILY let the “water flow over me.” You have to brush it off. Now get up and get going.

Cover Reveal!

I’m pleased to announce the new cover for my fourth novel, Something New. You’ll be hearing me talk about it in coming weeks and months, and I want to say how thrilled I am that I set it in my city, Oklahoma City, which was perfect for the theme of “something new.” The four women in my novel are falling apart together and dealing with second chances at finding happiness. You’ll discover how they try to get what they want.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. jammiekern says:

    I’ve learned to go into a situation with no expectations, then enjoy where it takes me. I often feel more satisfied with the outcome as opposed to trying to control it. People pick up on that worry or the lack thereof, and I feel more rewarded when people recognize my ability to just go with it.

  2. malenalott says:

    Jammie, that’s a great attitude. No wonder I love working with you! I’m much more chill than I was in my 20s and early 30s. I still likely set my goals too high, but it does feel really nice when I hit them.

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