A few days ago, I drove my London-based daughter and family to the airport after their short visit and said an emotional goodbye. Right now I’m missing them dreadfully and feel quite sorry for myself.
This morning as I went for a walk, I was surprised to realize that one of the reasons I was feeling miserable was because I felt disappointed about the way our time together had unfolded. Why was I feeling this way?
Before my family arrived, I’d played out many scenarios in my head around how our time together would unfold. I’d pictured us strolling along the harbor in the sunshine deep in conversation, while my two young grandchildren skipped happily beside us. I’d imagined my daughter and I having coffee at my favorite cafe, then exploring all the little boutiques in town together.
None of these things happened. Instead we were kept inside for much of the time by appalling weather – two cyclones hit the region within a week! Sunshine was nonexistent and the torrential rain that brought flooding to many areas in the region, made family walks impossible. All our attention and energy was focused on keeping my two young grandchildren happy and occupied as they dealt with jet lag, unfamiliar beds, and meeting new cousins and extended family.
To top it all off, the day before my family was due to leave, a state of emergency was declared because further flooding was anticipated. We decided we needed to leave right then to make sure they didn’t miss their flights, so our final day became a mad panic to pack and leave before we couldn’t get out. We were worried about flights being cancelled and the drive to Auckland was challenging as we battled through a torrential storm.
As I thought about our time together, I realized that my unrealistic expectations were the real cause of my disappointment. When I’d planned our time together, I’d failed to take the needs of others or the reality of limited time into account. I was disappointed because my expectations hadn’t being met in the way I’d imagined.
We all have expectations about how things will happen – it’s a human reaction to every new or different situation. But our expectations tend to focus on the positive and on meeting our own needs. After all, who starts something expecting it to fail. Our expectations never allow for the curve balls that life can throw at us and they fail to allow for the ways other people will behave.
Think back to the beginning in any area of your life. You started a new relationship, job or any sort of endeavor full or hope. But relationships become battlegrounds, jobs don’t work out as we’d hoped, we fail to achieve goals we’ve worked towards for years, people we love move away or in some cases die, we don’t make it onto the winner’s dais, disasters leave us homeless, economies fail, we are made redundant or fail to get the promotion we’ve worked so hard for, we fall out with friends or we are diagnosed with a terminal cancer. We are left feeling disappointed, angry and bitter.
Learning how to deal with disappointment is a necessary life skill if you want a fulfilling life. Disappointment can teach you much about yourself and your place in the world if you know how to respond to it. So how do you deal with disappointment in a way that leaves you feeling positive and at peace? There are five steps:
Being human means you will experience disappointment throughout your life. I will disappoint others, they will disappoint me – that is the way things go even with the best of intentions of all. The key is to recognize when you’re feeling disappointed, learn from it, grow through it and move beyond it so that it doesn’t taint or take away the good things in your life.
What areas of your life are a disappointment at the moment? What can you learn from them? I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to share your experiences dealing with disappointment.
Image by Seabamirum