Achieving your goals can be a fantastic experience! The process of deciding what you want to do, working hard towards that goal, and then seeing that hard work pay off is without question a truly satisfying experience. But what about when you don’t achieve your goal? How do you deal with it when you want something and perhaps work hard for it, but it doesn’t quite happen?
Webster’s dictionary defines disappointment as “unhappiness from the failure of something hoped for or expected to happen.” Applying this to karate, you could be unhappy that you had hoped to take a belt exam, but were not approved to do so. You could be unhappy that you expected to pass a pre-test, but were told you have things to correct before you can proceed. These can certainly be disappointing, but I submit that how you deal with the disappointment can be as defining to you and your goals as the physical process of working on them.
Most people consider working on achieving a goal like climbing a straight incline (think of the long side of a triangle). They believe you start at the bottom point and steadily work your way straight up to the top point. But, that is not (usually) how it works! Achieving a goal is usually a process that is more like climbing a mountain. Instead of always going up, it goes up for a while and then comes down a bit. It then goes back up and back down and so on. Hopefully, when you go up, you are getting higher each time, and when you come back down a bit, it is not going as low as the time before. It is a process and contains lots of intermediate points along the way. When you are going up, you feel good that you are making progress. When you are coming down, you might feel a little lost or unhappy like you are not making progress, but you realize that it is part of the process of getting better and making strides towards your goal (getting to the top of the mountain).
When learning karate, your body and mind need frequent rest and time absorbing the new material and physical movements that it is required to do. While this is happening, you are coming down the mountain a little bit. But, as you keep practicing and working on it, your mind and body starts to get it and you get better and come back up towards the summit.
I believe that you need to think of disappointment not as a failure, but instead as a midpoint on your way to achieving your goal. If you understand that it is all part of the journey of going up towards the summit of the mountain (your goal), you will not feel like a failure and thus actually see it as progress to achieving what you want.
I like to remember that as you get higher in rank, it takes longer to get promoted and learn the subtleties required to improve. So, the more “disappointments” of not testing for a best rank, the more progress you are making towards your goal. Look at the highest-ranked belts you know. They have had the most number of missed belt tests. But, it also means that they have used that as a means to keep improving and making progress towards their summit, and have achieved their rank for a reason.
Instead of taking missed belt exams as a failure, use it as motivation to tell yourself that this is another midpoint location on your journey to the top of the mountain, and it is a good sign that you are still climbing and not quitting. If you focus on the big picture and keep working hard, you will eventually get those goals and get to where you want to be.