Have you ever started a new job or entered into a new relationship expecting it to fail or be a disappointment? Of course not! We start new jobs, get married or commit to a new partner, go to college, set up a new business or move to a new city because we genuinely believe our lives will in some way be better. All new beginnings are built on hope. No one makes changes or starts something new expecting it to fail. And even when we know there may be challenges along the way, we still expect to overcome them and have the fairy-tale ending.
The reality is that things don’t always pan out as we hope. Every single person experiences failure and disappointment at times in their lives. I’ve certainly been disappointed in the way some of my relationships, jobs, holidays and friendships have worked out. And I know I’ve also disappointed other people at times.
Feeling disappointed drains our energy and if we’re not careful, can cause us to become bitter or bogged down emotionally. Disappointment can difficult to deal with because it usually encompasses a range of emotions. I often feel a mixture of anger (at myself and/or others) and a an overwhelming feeling of sadness. My self-talk becomes extremely negative and critical and a heaviness, which swamps out the good things in my life, fills my spirit.
The following five steps have enabled me to move beyond all types of disappointment and use the experience as a stepping stone for moving forwards.
Step 1 – Allow yourself to feel your emotions.
The first step is to honestly acknowledge what you’re feeling and give yourself the space and privacy to feel it. Many of us keep our emotions tightly buttoned up for much of the time, but if you don’t feel your disappointment, you will not be able to move past it. Yes, that’s right, you need to allow yourself to really feel it.
If possible, I go for a walk because walking helps to bring my emotions to the surface and as I walk I start to understand more clearly what I’m feeling. Next I pull out my journal and start writing down what I feel. I start by writing ‘I feel….’ and don’t try to censor what I write. Once I get going, I find that my feelings bubble onto the page and I’m always surprised at how much emotion I’m actually carrying. Getting my emotions onto the page allows me to really feel them and once I’ve finished writing, I find they subside and become less overwhelming.
If the disappointment or failure you’re facing is over something significant, you may need to repeat this step until you have worked through the deep emotions you’re holding within yourself.
Step 2 – Accept what has happened and understand how you got here
The next step is to take stock of your situation. I always ask myself what’s really going on here and what have I contributed to the situation. This is particularly true if you’re facing disappointment in a relationship. There are always mistakes/faults on both sides but if you can see what you’ve done, you can do things differently next time.
I’ve learned there are three main reasons why things often fall apart in my life.
It’s important to be kind and treat yourself with love and compassion. No criticism or harsh judgement, just make an honest assessment of the situation. Remember life has its ups and downs, wins and losses. We all make mistakes, get things wrong and allow our fears or limiting beliefs to dictate our behavior. The trick is to learn from every experience of disappointment.
Step 3 – Where to from here?
Once you’ve gained perspective, the next step is to work out how best to respond to your situation. Ask yourself ‘What do I really want and why?’ Sometimes when you ask yourself what you want, the answer is obvious, but at other times, it’s unclear and we feel confused.
I’ve found that asking myself ‘Why do I want /not want this?’ helps me identify fears or limiting beliefs that are driving my behavior and creating the confusion. I was once in a relationship that wasn’t working yet believed I wanted to stay in it. When I asked myself why I wanted to remain in it, I suddenly realized I didn’t want to remain in that relationship, but was afraid of the responsibility of living by myself. Understanding my ‘why’, enabled me to identify and address my fears and eventually reach a decision that was right for me.
Step 4 – Giving thanks and reaching out
This next step enables you to instantly create positive energy in order to counteract any negative energy you were feeling when you were disappointed.
Step 5 – Do something practical aligned with your decision
Finally do something positive that will contribute to the decision you made in Step 3. List at least three actions you can do right now. Do one today, the second tomorrow and the third action by the end of the week. Taking positive action towards achieving what you want will put you firmly in the driving seat again and move you out of the victim mode.
Disappointments should be welcomed. Disappointments highlight where things aren’t working in your life the way you want them to. Disappointments enable you to learn more about yourself and what’s important to you. They give you the opportunity to consciously choose again what you want out of life.
I’d love to hear about some of the disappointments you have faced in your life and how you have overcome them. If this article is helpful, please pass it onto others. Feel free to leave any questions or comments you might have.
Image by Kelly Huston