Editor’s note: The following is excerpted from writer Jordan Lee Dooley’s book Own Your Everyday. Jordan lives in Indiana with her husband Matt, a former college football star who is also a former NFL prospect. In this excerpt, Jordan explains the lessons her and Matt learned after his NFL career didn’t pan out like they had hoped.
Here’s a look at her advice and the four lessons she learned in the wake of disappointment.
1. Shift your mindset.
Sure, we didn’t make enough money to support ourselves from Matt’s short-lived NFL career, there were often more disappointments than dreams come true, and he certainly didn’t get as far as he would have liked. However, we had to stop saying that it didn’t work out … because it actually did. We had to shift our entire mindset from “that was a bummer” to “that was a blessing” as we realized that it did in fact work out exactly how it was supposed to, even if it wasn’t how we thought we wanted it to.
Did we have to take time to process the disappointment? Of course. There’s wisdom in allowing yourself to feel what you’re feeling. But if you look at every disappointment in life as an obstacle instead of an opportunity, you will become a wallower. Wallowers get swallowed up by life instead of making the most of life.
I often remember what my dad always said when I needed to tackle something with wisdom instead of whining when I was growing up: “We’re not raising wimps over here!”
It may sound a little harsh, but my dad’s a jovial kind of guy. He says everything with a big grin and a positive attitude. So, when he reminds me that he didn’t raise me to be a wimp, that doesn’t mean he raised me not to feel or struggle.
He’s always given me room to process emotions and wrestle through life. But that’s just it—he’s given me room to wrestle with life but never encouraged me to back down and let life’s challenges win. When he reminds me that I’m no wimp, he’s reminding me that I don’t have to give life’s disappointments the power to beat me up. I can’t always avoid getting punched by life, but I can decide if I’ll punch back with purpose. And so can you.
2. Don’t trust the process.
When it came to the ups and downs of the NFL, so many people told us to “just trust the process; it’ll work out.” But when the process totally didn’t work out and proved to be completely unreliable, Matt and I learned we had to stop trusting the NFL, or whatever dream we might have had, because that is a weak god that will let us down 10 times out of 10. We had to stop trusting the process, because the process is full of potholes and pitfalls. We had to instead start trusting God in the process.
Worry and insecurity lose their grip when I come to grips with the fact that I’m not in control (no matter how many prayers I pray) and that I can’t trust anything outside of God. I cannot control what happens to me. I can only choose how I respond to what happens. The same goes for you. The only thing you can control is your response when your best-laid plans crumble. You can choose to place your faith in the unsteady process or trust that a bigger purpose will always break through our plans when He has something so much better for us.
And hey, maybe things go wrong so God can set us right.
Maybe things go wrong so God can set us right.
3. Get over the platform.
For a little while, Matt and I thought that the NFL was going to be our platform but when that platform crumbled, we realized a few things. The first was that we already had a platform in our small spheres of influence, even if it wasn’t on a big stage. The second is that we don’t need a big platform to live our purpose. (And honestly, how prideful that kind of thinking is.)
If we have one, great, but that’s not where our purpose is found. Instead, we just need to love people. Purpose lies in how we show up in our spheres of influence and how people are loved by us.
No platform is required for that. No big name, fancy organization, or impressive job is necessary. Showing up can be done by both the broke college student and the established entrepreneur. Instead of trying to show off, each of us can choose to show up and give what we have.
Maybe we need to fail at what we think we want so we can learn to be faithful with what we already have, right where we are. Remembering this lesson always helps me keep a healthy perspective on whatever influence or platform I’m given, whether it’s in a local leadership position, online, or even in my small-town community.
What spheres of influence are you overlooking because you’ve been so focused on a sphere of influence you’d like to have? In other words, are you overlooking how you could make a positive impact on your next-door neighbor or your difficult in-law because you’re so focused on the influence that getting a promotion or an award might give you?
Over the course of those two years, I learned that football wasn’t the key to our purpose after all, and that our purpose could not and should not be so dependent on such a temporary and unpredictable platform. Maybe that would have been one specific way to carry out our purpose, but it would not have been the purpose in and of itself.
When I get caught up in having a big platform or in the pressure to prove myself to people, I have to stand in front of a mirror and speak this out loud: Focus on loving people more than on getting them to like you.
Again, remember significance over specifics. The specific roles or platforms we have are not our significance. They are places and spaces to bring our purpose to but they are not the point of everything.
Your purpose is not your job title or career path or any other means of influence. Those are simply avenues for living out the God-given purpose you already have.
4. Attitude of Gratitude
Disappointment will literally crush the determination and drive right out of you if you are not grateful for the experience it gave you. Grumbling will turn a letdown into a lockdown on your life. That’s when you’ll feel stuck. That’s where I’ve gotten stuck before. On the flip side, gratitude can turn a letdown into a lesson that redirects the trajectory of your life from what you thought you wanted to what you’re actually made for.