Life is filled with opportunities to be disappointed. You don’t get into your top choice college. You are passed over for a promotion at work. You can’t sit in a split even after stretching daily for months. You can be disappointed by things within your control, like your eating habits or your inability to be on time, or you can also be disappointed by things entirely out of your control, like rain on a camping trip or being turned down when you ask someone out.
The Oxford Dictionary defines disappointment as “the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one's hopes or expectations.” I like to tweak this a bit to read, “the feeling of sadness or displeasure we choose when our hopes or expectation are not met.” This difference is subtle but it places the power and the responsibility back to self rather than allowing another person or circumstance to hijack your emotions.
Why is this important? It’s the key to becoming resilient and developing a mindset that enables you to keep trying when things aren’t going the way you want.
Why Do You Feel Disappointed?
Many people choose disappointment as a way of motivating themselves to do something different next time. The power of this negative emotional charge might be the push you need to dig deeper, work harder, or try again. This only works, however, when you are in control of what caused the disappointment. And wouldn’t it be better if you could motivate yourself without having to feel badly first?
For example, becoming discouraged over bad weather on your day off is not likely to change the weather, but what it will do is make your day even worse as you slip into a funk and wallow in self-pity. It’s a downward spiral.
9 Tips to Break the Disappointment Pattern
To avoid slipping into a funk, here are a few tips to break the disappointment pattern:
- Minimize your fight-or-flight reaction by breathing deeply, taking a quick walk outside, or finding time to meditate. You want to observe how you feel but not allow that feeling to overwhelm or control you.
- Adopt the perspective of an observer rather than a participant and see if, from this perspective, there is a way to turn disappointment into opportunity. Detaching like this allows you to see with increased clarity.
- Notice if there were things you might have done differently that would have led to a better outcome. Try not to judge yourself. Be gentle and understanding. Extend to yourself the same kindness you would to a small child.
- Avoid thinking limiting thoughts like, “things never work out” or “this always happens to me.” These thought patterns don’t support your success and they trick you into thinking you can’t before you even try.
- Find someone to talk with who has had a similar experience. This can be a support group, a friend or mentor, or even an internet chatroom. The goal isn’t to swap sad stories. but to help one another recognize common humanity. Everyone experiences something disappointing and sharing stories can help remind you of this.
- Remember that there is always something to learn. Every experience brings an opportunity to learn from it.
- Create a personal narrative that supports your success. When you get a “no,” tell yourself you are one “no” closer to a “yes.” When your plane is delayed, causing a missed connection, tell yourself that your family will be even more excited to see you tomorrow. When you step on the scale and it is only down half a pound, remind yourself that you have more muscle and being healthy isn’t the same as weighing less.
- Celebrate that you know what you want. By having the feeling of disappointment, it shows that you know what your goal is. Many people haven’t even got a clear goal in mind. Instead of beating yourself up when you feel disappointment, choose to use that feeling as a reminder that you know where you are going and the goal is still in sight.
- Choose your next action. You can give up, you can keep going on your current trajectory, or you can adapt and try a different way. If you keep sending out resumes without response, you could edit your resume, you could apply for a different kind of job, or you can keep doing what you have been doing.
The key to overcoming disappointment is to use it to your benefit rather than allowing yourself to get bogged down by it. And remember these wise words:
“Don’t let today’s disappointments cast a shadow on tomorrow’s dreams.” ―Unknown