Disappointment, for a lot of us, is one of the scariest words in the English language. Most times, I’d rather have someone angry with me than disappointed in me. And I know I’m not alone in thinking that. Especially when we’re talking about people we love and whose opinions we respect and care about. Even more especially, when we’ve disappointed ourselves.
Sometimes it seems like we’re overreacting or taking things too personally. But if we think about how we attach ourselves to our goals, then we can see how we feel a sense of loss when we don’t achieve them. When we fall short of the expectations we’ve set for ourselves, it’s easy to take it heart.
It could be something seemingly simple, like handling a situation with a friend or a relative in a way we regret and maybe harming that relationship. Or, it could be a career prospect, a dream of that big house with a white picket fence, a financial situation or just getting on track with your healthy habits. When we set goals and have dreams for ourselves, then we attach our vision and the vision of our future to that achievement. We envision our lives from the perspective of someone who has accomplished that dream – and if we don’t, then we lose that vision, we lose that sense of accomplishment, we feel the loss of something we haven’t had yet but we’ve dreamed of and felt as if it were real.
It’s easy to see these obstacles as setbacks, these setbacks as failures. And, when we fail at something, it’s easy to see ourselves as the failure, as the disappointment, and not just this one situation.
There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
As hard as it is to work through, failure can actually be very good for our growth. (I’ve said this before). Life will knock each of us down more than once throughout life, but we can use that to fuel us and to point us in the direction we’re meant to be on. But, often, in the midst of these situations, it’s hard to see the redirection as a blessing. I am often guilty of being an “all or nothing” personality. If I’m in, I’m all in. I’m dedicated and committed to what I’m involved in. Of course, in many ways, this is a strength of mine, but it also backfires when things don’t work out. And there have been many times where things, try as hard as I might, just haven’t worked out. Tests I didn’t pass, goals I didn’t achieve, situations I handled poorly and regretted, jobs I didn’t get. This isn’t a complaint, but an acknowledgment of life. For each of those “failures,” I have a dozen successes to be proud of. And for each of those “failures,” I was pointed in a direction I would not have otherwise experienced. The famous adage is of course that hindsight is 20/20. But in many cases, if I had not been pushed in a different direction, I would not have learned lessons or become the woman I am. It didn’t feel good at the time, but it has shaped me.
The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.
I know, these things will continue, life will knock me down again in one way or another. And the lesson isn’t not to be disappointed, it isn’t not to set expectations, but to learn how to come back from the disappointment and to grow from it.
Our setbacks won’t be the same, but we can learn to deal with them similarly.
For me, the first step is that I allow myself to be upset. This can be difficult – disappointment and feeling of loss is uncomfortable, but don’t brush past it. It isn’t overreacting, it isn’t silly to feel upset or even heartbroken over the situation, so let yourself be upset. But, limit it. Give yourself a timeframe. Be upset, feel that emotion, understand why you’re upset and then breathe.
Once you allow yourself to breathe, understand the setback and what it means. Get some perspective. Was the expectation realistic? Was the timeframe realistic? Was it flexible? Was it not achieved due to something on your part, or on an outside factor? Can anything be altered to achieve the goal in the future? And of course, what is the silver lining?
And finally, we have to accept the given outcome and what it means. Sometimes we can take a step back and reset our goal. Maybe we didn’t give ourselves enough time, or we didn’t ask for help when we could have, but we can still reach the goal if we try a different approach. And, there are times where we don’t get a second chance, and it’s not a matter of trying again, but of changing course. If we can accept each result as it comes, we can refocus and set our next steps.
Here’s the truth. Disappointment sucks. It sucks to disappoint the people we love and it sucks to disappoint ourselves. But, if we can accept that we’ll run into disappointment throughout life, and that it’s ok to be upset and it’s ok to reset, then we can grow from each situation.
And that’s the best we can do – continue growing.
The principles of living greatly include the capacity to face trouble with courage, disappointment with cheerfulness, and trial with humility.
Thomas S. Monson
I hope you are all having a beautiful fall…the season that teaches us all to let go.