You may not know it, but there is a grieving process for IDEA’s that don’t come to fruition. Ok, maybe you’re thinking I’m crazy, BUT in a society that wants us to control our emotions, maybe I am. Why would you mourn over a silly idea? I know this to be true, as a PRO DREAMER it has taken me years to come to terms with this. This is obviously not the same kind of grief you have, when you have lost someone you love. IT IS still grief though. I want to help you to get through the process with more ease, because it is a grief strong enough that if you don’t acknowledge it, it could actually hurt you-mentally and emotionally, especially if it’s a really BIG idea, such as a business or a life changing notion. If you can recognize it for what it is, you will have power to move through it more steadily, so you can get on with your next idea.
The grieving process, for a failed idea is something like this (it is not the same for everyone, it will vary):
1. Denial & Isolation
The bible says, “Man without a vision shall perish.” Sometimes when those ideas don’t work out quite like we wanted them to, we can give up on our dreams and our goals. I don’t want this for you.
I am a person who has a million ideas a day:-) Alright, maybe not exactly that many, but a lot. A few years ago, I got really frustrated with God, because He made me to be a person with a ton of ideas, but I was not able to do them all. Why would He make me that way???!!! It simply made no sense!! I used to think because I had the idea, I needed to pursue it, only to find out soon enough I couldn’t, for many reasons. Sometimes, I just didn’t have enough money, or I wasn’t equipped to pull it off, or it really was not an idea for me. I used to struggle with why I couldn’t make anything happen, and I would get very depressed.
Years later, I am still an idea person, but I know how to work through these feelings pretty quickly because I’ve recognized that it takes a process.
1) Denial and Isolation:
I hear this over and over again with business owners. They had an idea, and they gave up everything to accomplish it, not weighing the cost of doing that first. Years down the line, they are trapped and either unwilling or unable to let go of their concept. Sometimes this “will” to fight is needed, so that they can survive until their next business idea comes along to save their current business, yet sometimes it’s important to know when it is dead. The denial is strong, and they feel like they are the only ones going through this situation, or maybe they don’t know who they can talk to. Sometimes they don’t even want to say it out loud, because to hear themselves saying it, means that they’re giving up, admitting defeat. A lot of times however, whether it’s said or not, they feel that way anyways, and all these owners want to do is walk away. I hear people talking about doing all kinds of crazy things to diminish a business, rather than just admitting it didn’t work, and cutting their losses. Instead, they ride it out, rack up more debt, and continue hating the “job” they’ve created for themselves, hoping it might burn down or something.
Even when the notion is something simple, it can be hard to admit that it didn’t work. I once was trying to put up shelves, which I usually let Alex do, especially since he doesn’t mind doing it. I had gotten it in my head however, that I didn’t need a man to do this job, and I was going to get them up myself-I can be very stubborn. I worked on it all day, and couldn’t seem to figure out what the heck I had done wrong, and why the darn things wouldn’t turn out straight. I could’ve just waited until my hubby got home, but NO!! I was determined that I was going to figure it out. When he finally got home at the end of the day, I was so angry at these shelves, because I wouldn’t admit that I needed his help and wait, that I was very snappy. He came in, did a couple of maneuvers, and had it fixed within minutes!! If I would’ve just let go of my denial that I needed his help, I could’ve saved myself a lot of turmoil that day.
I have had my share of anger over ideas I finally had to give up on. From silly things like a living room design not working because I didn’t sketch my drawing to scale or even measure anything, to business ideas that just didn’t do anything. I’m sure this emotion shows itself differently for everyone, but for me it usually comes with me being snappy at those around me. Then I have to stop, analyze what’s going on, and realize that I’m taking my anger out on my loved ones, because my idea didn’t work the way I had hoped it would. I’m pretty good at working through this one more rapidly NOW, but ONLY because I have learned how to channel my feelings properly. I write them down. Yep, it’s that simple, although that may not be what works for you. You may need to talk to someone, or take a walk. You might need to just get away from the situation, or perhaps beat something like a punching bag (hopefully not someone!!) Figure out what works for you, and just be quick to apply it. Don’t be in denial and let it last too long.
You may be like, bargaining? Like asking for a better price at the store? LOL. No. In grief bargaining is saying, I should’ve done this differently, or if only I would’ve done that instead. For instance, I have had many ideas that I think of as my “baby.” This can be very dangerous…Here’s why: When an idea is MY baby, often times it creates a double edged sword. I want control over every aspect of this idea, so I won’t give ANY of it up. However, many great ideas grow to something bigger than I, by myself, can handle, which means that I will eventually NEED help. However, because I want control, due to the fact that this is MY “baby,” I will never feel like I can fully trust anyone to help me with other areas that I NEED help with. Then I will feel like I should’ve done more when it inevitably does fail, or I could end up blaming others, thinking they didn’t try hard enough (even though it was me, who wouldn’t let them in the first place). It’s a vicious cycle!! What I really needed to do was to allow the person I brought in to do their job, freedom to do said job, and EMPOWER them to do it well.
I have learned this lesson the hard way many times. When dealing with a failed idea, it is better to not think of ALL the many things that could’ve been done better, unless it is going to help YOU to move forward in another idea, and YOU learned NOT to repeat those mistakes again. Don’t play the “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” game with yourself.
This is my most difficult stage of “Idea Grief.” I had an idea once for an amazing network. I dreamed the heck-out of this idea. In my mind I had the perfect setup for a great community-all centered around homeschooling. We were going to do field trips, have tutorials, initiate apprenticeships, even create a system of people across country, where other homeschoolers could stay while travelling-videos, blogs, curriculum, etc... It was a grandiose idea. I certainly didn’t sit down and think about anything practical such as how to market the idea, logistics, and the time to build said network, or anything like that. In my head, all I had to do was start talking about it, and BAM!! It would just happen. Surely, everyone I spoke to would think it was amazing!! Well, I’m sure you can imagine how much of a “kick in the face” it was when my FIRST phone call to my FIRST homeschool organization didn’t go so well. They were polite, but they didn’t know who I was, I didn’t have any track record, or connections with anyone. I had it in my head that this idea would be an instant success, and when it wasn’t, I sunk hard. It took me a while to want to be around anyone outside of my family, and all I wanted to do was lie in bed, and eat crap. I didn’t (I had little kids to take care of), but I wanted to.
I made a lot of mistakes here, my biggest being-I didn’t talk to enough people within my circle of influence to get their thoughts on my idea. They probably would’ve helped me to get my head out of the clouds a bit, and would’ve helped me to see the error in my “get rich and famous quick” scheme, and helped me to realize that I needed to start out small and work my way up. My next mistake was that I had myself built up so much on a dream that was so much bigger than I realized, that I didn’t have room for failure in my mind. When my first “no” came, I wasn’t ready to dust it off and try again. I was too crushed to push forward. I really did think it would be an instantaneous success. Lastly (not really, but I like a good 3 point persuasion), I isolated myself afterwards. I needed encouragement from good friends and family. If I would’ve talked to them, I would’ve gained perspective, known that these kinds of things happen to everyone, and would’ve been given the confidence to pick up and try another tactic. When going through the disappointment of an idea not working, don’t separate yourself from your support system!!
The faster you get through step four, and the more feedback and support you get, the sooner you will be able to accept your failure and move on. I say failure, because all great leaders talk about growing through your failures. In fact, the quicker you fail with an idea, the sooner you can move on to the next one, and that one will probably start where your last idea left off, and could even become your first or next success.
Many years ago, I got into DIY decorating for my home, for two reasons-I didn’t have much money, and I like customized items. I enjoyed the thrill of making my own things, and having someone compliment me. There were many times though, that the projects wouldn’t turn out the way I had hoped, or I wouldn’t get compliments. I’m sure some people thought I was crazy, and that I should just go purchase the items I wanted in my house. Still, I kept on. Recently, my DIYs have started turning more and more into successes, and people ask me how I do them, and I have to say that I really enjoy the way my home looks-I still have some that don't turn out exactly how I'd like them, on the whole however, the projects have added value to my home style. If I hadn’t stuck it out, and moved on from my failures, I wouldn’t have become the DIYer I am today.
Now that you are equipped with the truth that it is ok to have these feelings when an idea doesn’t go exactly the way you wanted, I hope you will feel empowered. Let me tell you, before I had kids, I used to pride myself on how I never cried over anything, and was so good at controlling my emotions. Once I had my babies though, that all went out the door. This used to make me so annoyed at myself, but someone helped me to understand that it’s ok to feel. In fact, if we don’t allow ourselves to do it, those feelings will just build up inside until they explode and you can’t hold them in no matter how hard you try. I’m not giving you permission to wallow in your sorrow. NO WAY!! Allow yourself the grace to feel what you need to feel, and then move on. Grow. Dream. Keep Trying!! That is what I want you to do with this information!! Live!! And keep moving on with new ideas!!