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Dealing with Disappointment in 5 Steps

Updated on October 13, 2015

Disappointment Hurts

It doesn't matter what the circumstances are, it could be not getting a job or promotion that you really wanted, not passing an exam or training course, not being selected for a big reward or not hitting your targets - disappointment happens, and it doesn't feel good.

Of course disappointment doesn't just happen in the sphere of work and business, the nature of humanity is that no-one is perfect, people will let us down, maybe even lie and cheat, be unkind or in all sorts of other ways NOT DO what we expected them to or DO things we did NOT expect them to, and leave us feeling disappointed.We may have very little control over what causes us to feel disappointed but we do certainly have some choices about how we respond to disappointment and we can frame it in a way that can be positive. It takes effort but it can be done.

Step 1 - Accept Disappointment

Often, disappointment comes after a period of anticipation - you wait for the phone call or letter after an interview, or watch the post box or your email inbox waiting for an exam result, then when it comes it is simply not good news and usually, if it was something you wanted the feeling is awful.

You sort of want to go back to before the call or letter and simply make it different - usually people want to hide away, shed a few tears, be angry or drown your sorrows. All quite normal feelings - as long as the outcome is that you accept what has happened. It is often harder when you don't understand why - you were sure you had the skills and qualifications what went wrong?

It can be even harder to accept disappointment in our personal lives but the same principle exists. Accepting the reality, even though it is not what you hoped for is what will provide the springboard for you to move forward.

Step 2 - Declare it.

Words are very powerful and although it may be very hard if you want to move on from disappointment declaring it certainly helps speed up the process. Often the reason people want to hide away when they have experienced disappointment is because they don't want to tell people! Somehow when we haven't voiced it, it's easier to deny and pretend to ourselves it hasn't actually happened.

My advice, if it is related to work or business, is do this step as quickly as you can and you will find that as you tell others you didn't get the job, bonus, promotion, contract or whatever somehow the 'sting' goes out of it as you get used to declaring the truth. If it's a personal disappointment, in a relationship for example well the truth remains the same but the emotions may be deeper and may impact on others more, but the new reality remains just that, so the word declare may not feel right but however disappointed or broken hearted you might feel sometime or other people have to know the new reality, if not all the details, and telling others will actually help you.

Step 3 - Analyse It

This step is essential but needs to be approached with caution. If disappointment is to be used for good, and it can be then we need to learn from it (next step) and to learn from it we need to have a bit of a look at what happened and why. Sometimes though we don't and will never know why, and in those instances we just have to put it down to experience. But certainly in the business or job scenarios there will often be some degree of feedback that we can benefit from, even if we disagree. This step is not about digging around for reasons but just looking at it in a honest way to see if there are things that could have been done differently. If you know for example that you were rushed when you arrived for the interview, well allow more time in the future, or if you felt thrown by some of the questions maybe more preparation is required.

Analysis is not an excuse to beat yourself up the point is simply to be honest so the same thing won't be repeated.

Step 4 - Positive Learning

Sometimes people genuinely can't find reasons or things they could have done better, or differently. But that doesn't mean there is no chance for positive learning. Perhaps the most important learning, the type of greatest value is the learning we do about ourselves in such time. It's when the chips are down that we can learn most about our responses. Some people definitely enjoy a wallow, others enjoy the sympathy, others try to be 'strong' but what they really do is just bury their feelings and carry on regardless, which is ok as a coping strategy in the short term but if feelings and emotions aren't expressed in some way at some time they have a nasty habit of creeping up onus later.

In life, no experience, good or bad, is wasted - we can always learn from them and allow ourselves to develop - we don't have to like or enjoy the experience but we can take something for it.

Step 5 - Try Again

Even when it feels like it might, when we ardisappointed the world does not stop turning. Life doesn't stop and wait for us so at some point we have to 'put ourselves out there' once more. There will be other jobs, other chances to take the exam, more possibilities for promotion but of course when we have faced disappointment it's not something we relish doing again. But that is the way of life.

It is a choice of course and there are plenty of examples in literature and film about people who 'hide away' when they have been disappointed. This might not be a physical hiding but many of us will have come across someone who is immensely talented or skilled yet working at a level well below what they are capable of - there may be all sorts of reasons for this but sometimes it's because having once experienced disappointment they just never tried again.

Very many successful people have experienced disappointment - but then gone on to experience immense success simply because they were prepared to try again.


That's Life

So it might not be pleasant but it is a part of life. The important thing, what will STOP the disappointment having a really negative impact on your life is how you respond to it. You may be down but definitely not out, it's okay to give yourself a bit of recovery time but ultimately you have to get up and move on with life and that's often easier if it's done relatively quickly.

The disappointment may not have been welcome and may have been totally out of your control but how you deal with it is up to you. Life iS change, whether it is the seasons, or children growing or the earth spinning it is not static it is a journey and as with any journey there will be obstacles and maybe even a few detours, but the only real answer is to ADAPT - Accept, Declare, Analyse, Positively (learn) and Try again. - Good Luck!

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      sara 21 months ago

      As always Sheila, another great post. Great information and perspective to adopt into our own lives. TX