It’s difficult not to take things personally, especially in our professional lives. And while I would love to live under some measure of hakuna matata, that isn’t the case. Whether it’s ideas that are rejected, or lessons that are ignored, disappointment can be a difficult emotion to wrangle. The upside, if you didn’t feel it, it would mean you didn’t care.

Just yesterday, in the classroom, we are finishing up a project that I particularly enjoy. It’s hands-on, lots of construction, relates to themes in the course in active ways. By all measures, this is a lot of fun. Yet I am dealing with students dipping out of the classroom, living on their smartphones, and just going with the first solution that comes to them. Not all of them, mind you, but enough that the discouragement is palpable.

That’s not a terrible thing. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on two things: my pedagogy and my goals. If students are checking out, how much of it is on my teaching? How much is on their situations? Am I making my goals clear? Are the students buying in? Even the ability to ask these questions first means swallowing a bitter pill. It also means that I still care.

The same thing happens with writing. I might create what I think is a great voice or concept for a brand, but the feedback is lackluster at best. Or a brand story that gets completely derailed by internal, corporate speak. If that rolled off my back, then I would know it’s not the right project for me. My clients are not just paying for my expertise or talent, they are paying for my care.

Disappointment is an ugly feeling. You are angry at the situation, you question your own abilities, you drag yourself through the mud to analyze what has happened. But you do it all because the end results still matter to you. Disappointment is terrible, but it is infinitely better than apathy.

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