• Melissa Gouty

3 Decisive Battle Plans to Conquer the Dragon of Discouragement

Because we will all face the beast



Discouragement doesn’t discriminate.

“You’re so damned happy all the time,” my friend commented, causing me to wonder if her words were a compliment or a curse. I knew she was right. Something in my nature, genetics, or upbringing made me consistently happy. Even-keel, positive, and smiling— most of the time. But every so often, even happy people face the demon-dragon of discouragement when it rears its fierce head and attacks. 

I was blessed with loving parents and a father who was the most contented, cheerful soul I’ve ever known, much like his mother, my forever-joyful Maw Maw. My theory is that a good number of Daddy’s “happy genes” got passed down to me, a theory that science has proven. Leading researchers have found that feelings of well-being are directly connected to genetic makeup. About 40% of personality is based on genetics, and the other 60% is shaped by a person’s environment. Research has also shown that human traits of resilience, optimism, and cognitive styles affect happiness levels and that all three of these characteristics overlap on the genome. In total, more than 300 genetic hotspots determine a person’s sense of well-being. 


Discouragement strikes everyone.

But even happy people like me feel dispirited on occasion. Sometimes you just wear down after constantly striving to get farther ahead in your career, make enough money to pay the bills, or maintain productive relationships. When that happens, no matter what your chosen profession or your genetic make-up is, you need strategies to battle the discouragement. 

My dad nicknamed me “Tiger,” because I was a sick, premature baby who had what they called “survival instinct” and fought my way to health. Daddy’s nickname reflected my stubbornness — (a trait I much prefer to call “persistence”), and my dogged willingness to fight my way forward. So it’s no surprise that I woke up this morning at 4 a.m. developing strategies to slay the dragon of discouragement that’s been dogging me. 


Battle plans.

1) Face it.

No one’s life is a perfectly choreographed map of upward momentum. No one — no matter how resourceful they are — is exempt from disappointment and discouragement. Acknowledge that you are part of the human race and will feel what everyone else experiences at some time.

“People who never feel discouraged are out of touch with themselves and the world.” — The Leadership Freak

Stand up straight. Square your shoulders. Look discouragement straight in the eye. Acknowledge its presence and then figure out how to get past it. Remember the words of Neal Maxwell: 

"Discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage."

Face the cause of your discouragement. Psychologist Peter Gollwitzer suggests that people often feel discouraged because they haven’t fully committed to their course of action. If you aren’t convinced that what you’re pursuing is what you really want, you’re likely to give up when faced with difficulties. People who have decided they’re “all-in,” dig in their heels, adjust their mindset, and redouble their efforts to overcome discouragement and forge ahead. Those are the ones who come out on top…because if you don’t face your enemy, you can never overcome it, as Dale Carnegie noted: 

“Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”

2) Fight it.

Deliver a war-cry. Tell that dragon that he is only a temporary delay, not a deadly one. “You are just a blip in a life of success!” you shout as you think to yourself that progress takes time; nothing is instant; problems aren’t permanent. Fight discouragement by remembering the long-view

Bring out your weapons. Whatever the tools of your trade, take them out and brandish them. No matter what you do, you can do battle against discouragement by creating something new. Start a new project. Move ahead. What would have happened if F. Scott Fitzgerald had quit writing after he received 122 rejections? If Dr. Suess had given up because 27 publishers refused to print his first book? If Van Gogh had stopped creating art? 

"In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing." -  — Vincent Van Gogh

Fight the dragon by seeing discouragement as an inevitable result of living. Know that the way to slay it is by keeping your sword moving. James Whitcomb Riley was an Indiana poet at the turn of the 20th Century, a favorite of my grandpa who could quote Riley’s folksy poems non-stop. Riley, a prominent, recognized poet, speaker, and author who battled both alcoholism and discouragement, said this: 

“The most essential factor is persistence — the determination never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by the discouragement that must inevitably come.” 

3) Flee It. 

Run away from discouragement. Fleeing is not a lack of courage; it’s a survival strategy. If you’re feeling discouraged because you’re tired or burned out, do something different. Shake up your routine. Travel to a new location. Turn the tables on discouragement by making him search for you in a new place. 

Think about it. Why do we love weekends and vacations so much? Because they provide a break from fighting the daily battles. They give us time to replenish our bodies and our minds in a different setting. The dragon of discouragement can’t breathe fire down your neck when you’re rested. It’s a proven fact that “time-away” increases creativity, motivation, and productivity. In fact, taking a break is a decisive battle tactic for defeating discouragement. It’s not a sin to flee. It’s a smart strategy. 


Discouragement can be conquered.

Turn that dragon of discouragement to stone by taking action. Face it, fight it, or flee it. The choice is yours. Don’t buy into the argument that you can’t do anything about it. You have the power to defeat discouragement if you DO SOMETHING. 

"The greatest source of discouragement is the conviction that one is unable to do something." — Maria Montessori

For more insights on life and the human condition, check out "Heartfelt Stories" on LiteratureLust.com.