When Heartbreak Sets In: How to Stay Focused on The Big Picture

Heartbreak. Everyone experiences it at some point in his or her life. It hurts badly. When your heart is broken, you can go through a phase of depression where you literally lie around and do nothing for days on end. It’s shocking and painful. You think to yourself, I’ll never get through this!

But you do, and the best way is this: Stay focused on the big picture.

The most notable experience of heartbreak is the breakup between a boyfriend and a girlfriend. Usually, it’s the first heartbreak a young adult experiences. But there are many types of heartbreak: heartbreak over the loss of a friendship, loss of a job, a dissolving marriage, or losing some other opportunity after committing much energy and effort into it.

A recent example of heartbreak comes from my daughter Amanda. Over the years, Amanda has honed hers skills on the soccer field, and every year her game improves. I like watching Amanda play because of her ability to think during the game. She knows what to do with the ball before it even gets to her. Amanda has great field sense.

Recently Amanda was cut from the varsity soccer team at her new high school. She is a freshman, and for the most part, freshmen don’t make varsity unless they’re exceptionally good and the coach can’t rely on upper-classmen. This is rare.

When the summer began, Amanda, who chose which high school she wanted to attend, committed to working as hard as she could to make the soccer team. Very few athletes at that age commit to working out as hard as she did this past summer. Amanda worked out three, four, sometimes five days a week. She increased her stamina and strength with each workout.

Seven months ago, Amanda began reading personal growth books so I knew she had a good mindset going into the workouts. She attended voluntary summer workouts for the high school and immediately after those workouts, she would go to her club soccer practices or voluntary basketball practices. She was determined and tenacious with her routine.

When tryouts began, Amanda told me how badly she wanted to make the varsity squad. She turned in the fastest mile and did well with her other cardio and soccer activities. She — and all of the other players on the team — were all but certain she would make the team. The team had four scrimmage games the Saturday before cuts, and not only did Amanda play well, she played more than half the time.

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Monday after the games was the big day. We were excited too that our little girl was going to make the varsity squad. She went to practice, and all the girls were at the gym where one by one they would meet with the coaches to hear their fate. Would it be varsity, junior varsity, or none of the above?

Amanda walked in, sat in front of the coaches, and within seconds heard the words out of the coach’s mouth: Congratulations, Amanda! You made the JV soccer team.

Amanda’s heart sunk immediately, and heartbreak set in.

Amanda cried herself to sleep that night. I remember being in our master bathroom, and I could hear her sobbing through the wall. It was heartbreaking for me to hear as a parent.

She was confused as to why she was cut. The coach decided not to keep any freshman on the varsity team, but Amanda was not hearing that. She worked hard, and had even denied herself many fun foods over the summer so she could be in top shape when workouts began.

We’ve all been that disconsolate at one time. It was her first heartbreak — and it wasn’t over a boy. She was so driven and committed to accomplish her goal that when she fell short, it broke her heart.

Now she has a choice. Does she gather herself together after a few days of sadness or does she let it get the best of her? Before I left for work the next day, I whispered in her ear as she was sleeping, “You’re a fighter. Keep working hard and things will work out.”

It would take a few days, but I know my little girl. She would come out fighting and would continue to work hard with the hope of possibly being called up to the varsity team by year’s end, or maybe later, but certainly with the intent of making the team next year.

From time to time in my business we experience heartbreak in one form or another. Heartbreak in my industry stands out the most when a transaction falls apart at the last minute. Not long ago, I was selling a waterfront property. We got the property under contract and were going through the closing process smoothly. We arrived at the settlement table, and just as we were to begin, my client asked me if he would be receiving his check at the table. I responded by telling him he would have his money within the hour.

The title attorney began the settlement and a few minutes later, his phone rang. It was the lender, explaining that the buyer needed to have flood insurance for the new mortgage. The buyer had failed to obtain flood insurance prior to close. No problem, we thought. We would be delayed by a few hours as the buyer would have to arrange for his new policy. We left the office thinking we would be back soon. Within two hours of leaving, I received a call from the agent. With the price of flood insurance so high, the buyer could no longer afford to buy the house.

I had to deliver the gut-wrenching news to my client. We would not be settling that afternoon nor would we be settling with this buyer at all. It was devastating, to say the least. My client was within minutes of settling a big sale only to have it slip through his fingers. Heartbreak had set in. What goes through a client’s mind at that point? What do you do to keep your client in a positive frame of mind?

We put the house back on the market, of course, and began marketing the property with new zeal. Things like this happen in the real estate business. When they do, I like to think they happen for a reason. We have to consider the new situation as a paradigm shift. This was a deferred payment process.

From past experience, I knew that the house would get a new buyer, but I couldn’t predict when. However, the most important thing to do at that time was to keep my client thinking positively. I did so by staying in constant communication and by reassuring my client that I was working hard to make sure the property was seen by new, potential buyers. At a time when he otherwise could have lost focus or hope, it was my job to keep my client from despair.

We did eventually sell the property. In fact, my client received more money from the new offer than the previous one. In the end, it worked out better for him, but it was still an anxious time.

As in the case of the waterfront property seller, heartbreak can have a happy ending. But even when it doesn’t, heartbreak is part of our journey of growth, both in life and in business.

The fact is, we must look to embrace the heartbreaks. They never feel good initially, but in hindsight, they enable us to look back and identify a new lesson we learned and track how we grow from our experiences. The experiences also help us to manage the next heartbreak more pragmatically, using the additional wisdom to mitigate the pain.