What has disappointed you recently? The list of possibilities is as diverse as life itself: failure to get a credit in an important speech, or not being invited to a family wedding. From feeling like you’ve picked the short straw to a pervading sense of general discontentment with life, disappointment can be a destructive emotion. As is the case with a lot of things which seem out of our control, and ‘bound to happen’, there are ways to manage disappointment, and next time around, it might not just be oh-so-devastating.
What do you want? Self-reflect on your motives and your desired outcomes, both positive and negative. It might be that you’re setting yourself up for failure. Ask yourself: ‘do I really want this?’ and ‘what am I looking for?’ From small things to big things, such as relationships and job applications, it’s important to question why something is so significant to you. It’s useful to write these thoughts down in bullet points, or talk it over with someone.
Have a Plan B Organisation and preparing ‘for the worst’ can be a useful tool. Set realistic goals and expectations and be mindful of the things you do and do not have control over. If there are things you can’t control, consider back-up plans or a strategy for the next-best thing. Your preferred outcome might not happen so it’s important to have hope and plan for things. If your hope is dependent on something out of your control, you’re relying on luck. Having a B-plan is a much more positive approach than having low expectations.
Withhold judgment It is all too easy to judge ourselves when feeling low. Be mindful and evaluate your mood with compassion and without judgment. Often, disappointment comes with self-reproach and blame (‘this always happens to me’/‘It’s my fault’), but you should evaluate the situation reasonably. Disappointment is often also fuelled by rumination and then catastrophising (‘I always get let down!’/‘No one is trustworthy!’), and that’s probably not a reality.
Maintain control Once the immediacy has subsided, go back and reflect on the situation: what did you really want out of it? Were your expectations realistic? What were your drivers? If you wanted something to happen but had no control, then learn from that and adjust your expectations. Pitch them alongside what you have the capacity to change and control. If you don’t, you create a high risk of disappointment. If you have control of a situation, you can exercise that control and lead it to a positive outcome.
We can all be a little dramatic, especially when things don’t turn out as we’d hoped. Try and cope with the demons in your head by being pragmatic, instead of throwing a tantrum. It’s easier said than done, but the quicker you move on from disappointment, the better.