Dealing with Disappointment
Colin Clews


Life's not always a bed of roses, but there are ways of turning the downside around.

We all experience disappointment at some point in our lives.  For example, we may not be successful at a particular job interview, we may not achieve specific health goals as quickly as we had hoped, or we may not complete a task that is important to us (such as writing a book) within our allotted time frame.

When this happens, it's important that we respond in a way that will let us build on our experience rather than fall victim to negative and self-defeating thinking.

Whatever the issue, the process of getting back on track is the same.

Addressing the Emotional Impact

To begin with,  we need to recognize and deal with the emotional impact of our disappointment.  For example, our initial reaction may be a sense of helplessness, confusion, frustration or anger.  It's important that we acknowledge these feelings and do something to address them.

This can mean anything from having a good cry to letting off steam by talking to someone about it or giving ourselves a little bit of pampering.  Doing something like this not only counters the negativity, but also stops us from wallowing in our misery.

Taking action to address the issue also clears the way for us to move on.  Amongst other things, it releases pent-up emotions and frees up our energies in readiness for the next stage of recovery.

Assessing the Situation Objectively

The next stage begins when we can sit down and objectively ask ourselves why things didn't turn out as we had hoped.

As regular visitors to this site will know, I place great importance on involving other people to help us achieve our goals.  And this situation is no exception. Amongst other things, other people can give us a different perspective and be a source of new ideas.

So in this case we may find it useful to talk it through with a friend or colleague.  In the case of a job interview, it's also worth considering a chat with the interviewer to get their feedback.  More often than not, they're happy to offer some feedback - as long as they don't feel that we're simply looking for an excuse for an argument.

A key objective at this point is to establish why things didn't turn out the way we had hoped.  More specifically, was it due to factors within or outside or control?

If it was due to factors outside our control - for example, a job candidate who simply had more experience or personal circumstances that prevented us form working on our goals - then we simply have to accept that.  In these situations we need to know only that we did our best under the circumstances.  Then we need to move on with our lives.

If we could have influenced the outcome, then we need to identify what we could have done differently.

Building, Not Blaming

It's important that we don't turn this into an exercise in blaming ourselves (or others, for that matter).  We're looking for specific areas where we can take practical steps to improve our future performance.

For example, in a job interview we may have neglected to do a bit of background research on our prospective employer.  Or when trying to achieve certain health goals, we may have forgotten to establish our priorities or not managed our time as well as we could have.

By looking at this objectively, we can turn something that was a negative into a positive.  We can build on our experience rather than beating ourselves up because of our 'failures'.  And we can end up with a new set of ideas that will take us towards our goals.


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