How to Deal with Disappointment
By Margie Warrell
Life doesn't always go to plan. Sometimes things don't work out as we want. Sometimes people let us down. Sometimes our hopes, dreams and expectations crash to the ground with a thud.
Over the years I've felt disappointed more times than I care to count. An opportunity that looked promising fell through. A person I thought highly of acted poorly. A job I wanted went to someone else. Just last weekend, I felt a stab of vicarious disappointment as my oldest son Lachlan missed out on making the select basketball team. He'd had his heart set on it and when my husband told him the news, I found myself struggling in vain to hold back the tears for the sharp disappointment Lachlan felt. (Oh how we parents hate to see our children in pain.)
I am sure that you have had your own share of disappointments. Perhaps you are working through one (or several) right now.
Disappointment is an emotion we feel when we don't get the outcome we want or expect. When reality fails to conform to what we think it 'should be' disappointment (often combined with resentment or frustration) rises up within us, sometimes with an intensity that knocks us down hard. As human beings wired to become attached to certain outcomes, we are destined to experience it right throughout the course of our lives. Having just spent two days last week with the Dalai Llama I now know that even the most 'enlightened' among us are not immune to emotions such as disappointment. Rather they have just learnt how not to let those emotions take hold.
But I believe deeply that if we only ever had things work out the way we wanted, we would never value success and we'd never develop the resilience or wisdom God (or the universe or whatever you choose to call it) intended us to. It's the knocks in life, the setbacks and disappointments, that allow us to savor and fully appreciate the wins and successes.
As I work through disappointment I am called to deepen my faith -- in the belief that everything is exactly as it should be (even though that's not always how i want it to be), in myself and in my own resourcefulness. It also calls me to listen more closely to my own intuition and to trust that within every disappointment lies the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit. I just have to find it. You just have to find it. Does that lessen the blow for Lachlan as he comes to accept a reality that is different from the one he'd attached himself to? Nope. Not much. But I have great faith that his character, in his resilience and in his ability to deal with other disappointments that may line his path through life will be strengthened because of it.
Our disappointment can be eased when we realize that no matter how hard we might try or hope otherwise, we can never force the world to submit to our idea of how it should be nor force people to act a certain way. Expecting those around us to always respond with wisdom, generosity, good judgement, thoughtfulness, or humility is setting ourselves up for disappointment. Just as our ego sometimes gets the better of us, so too others fall prey to theirs.
Likewise, we can never expect life to always unfold a certain way -- for our good deeds to be recognized, for our generosity to be returned, for our honesty to be rewarded, or our courage to be recognized. Not in the short term anyway.
All you can ever do, in the face of the disappointments that life brings your way is to step forward into each day, into each new challenge (however unexpected, unfair or daunting) with trust in yourself, faith in your future and arms open wide to each and every experience that life brings your way. Life can only every be lived in the moment. We are missing the boat when we spend our days stuck in regret and resentment about what happened yesterday or in fear and anxiety about what might happen tomorrow.
Right now, in this moment, trust that you are exactly where you need to be and that precious lessons on wisdom, courage, faith and self-trust are waiting on you to be uncovered. And for those who you are disappointed in, know that they have their own lessons to learn and that ultimately, what goes around will come around.
I encourage you to breathe deeply into this moment. Really deeply. Right to the bottom of your stomach, and as you breathe out, let go your anxiety about the future and any disappointments of the past. Rather just give today the best you have - for all that it is, and for all that it isn't.