Life is full of disappointments and we need to learn resilience to cope with it. Very rarely, do things in life actually live up to our expectations. When one of my sons was 5, we all used to dread taking him to a restaurant. If he did not receive his order in 5 to 10 minutes, he used to start crying. Loudly. In his defence, he preferred Macdonalds or KFC anyway. The key issue is reality does not match up to our expectations. My son expected his food within a few minutes and when reality did not match up with his expectations, he experienced disappointment.
It’s perfectly ok to have big expectations and aim high. Aim for the stars but if you get the moon, appreciate it. Many go-getters feel they may be shortchanging themselves if they are realistic. You’re not. You’re bucking the trend but you are aware of the trend to help you carry on.
Strategy 1 : Adjust your expectations to help you cope with disappointment .
When we get disappointed, we feel sad and vulnerable. It is natural to try and escape from these feelings. Some positive mental attitude books recommend that you do not even acknowledge the disappointment. However, in terms of wellness, it is important to acknowledge your feelings and allow them to wash over you. Therapists recommend writing down how you feel.
Strategy 2 : Accept the feeling and allow it to flow through you .
In the maelstrom of emotion, it is difficult to think clearly. The future looks bleak and you may feel like there is no point in going on. It is easy to lose hope. The reason for this is we feel that this temporary state is permanent and don’t have the strength to bear the pain indefinitely. By staying calm and thinking clearly, you will realise that you only have to be strong today. Don’t worry about how you will cope tomorrow. Just get through today.
Strategy 3: Remember disappointment is temporary
Once you have accepted the disappointment, you need to start picking yourself up and moving on. Many people carry the pain of disappointment with them. The pain of regret is etched in their character and prevents them enjoying the pleasure of living or having hope for the future. An old fable talks about the devil having all his temptation instruments up for sale including hatred, envy and malice. On one side was an old instrument that appeared inoffensive called ‘discouragement’ that was priced much higher than the others. The junior tormenters questioned the devil about this and he responded defending its value. When people get disappointed, they become discouraged and open their souls to other instruments like jealousy and hatred. Discouragement allows the other instruments to be used.
Strategy 4: After giving yourself time to experience the disappointment , you need to move on with the rest of your life.
Use your disappointment as a challenge. Just because you were not successful at this attempt does not mean that your next attempt will have the same result. Learn from your experience. If looking for a job, send out another application. If you have failed an exam, start preparing for the next sitting. Many of my students have failed at their first attempt as they did not take my advice in terms of preparing adequately for the Advanced Tax exam. They have not given up but instead have overcome their disappointment, They then went on to pass the exam and enjoy success.
Strategy 5: Treat Disappointment as a challenge
We all live in our own little bubble interpreting the world through our own eyes. We feel our own pain and assume that other people’s lives are much easier compared to our own. Everyone’s lives are filled with disappointment. People tend to view others enviously believing that their lives are idyllic and they have an easier path compared to us. People who are blessed with financial success experience disappointments in their relationships. In relationships, once the initial excitement fades, we start noticing the deficiencies of our partner. At the same time, we are usually blind to our own idiosyncrasies. Disappointment is an integral part of everyone’s lives. As Wordsworth said ‘ Be still, sad heart and cease repining. Your fate is the common fate of all. Some days must be dark and dreary’.
Strategy 6: Take comfort in the fact that everyone experiences disappointment.
When you experience disappointment, you become more sensitive to the struggles faced by others. You can offer support and words of encouragement. You understand to deal with this obstacle in your life and can appreciate your blessings. Disappointments build our character and help us become compassionate to others. You can use the disappointment you have experienced as a force for good and become a better person for it. As humans, we learn far more effectively from our painful experiences compared to our happy times. Like an iron sword that feels it is senselessly tortured by the furnace, disappointments help us develop steel in our character.
Strategy 7: Use disappointment to help others and build your own inner strength