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Dealing With Disappointment

When’s the last time you were blindsided by a good dose of disappointment? Regardless of who you are, dealing with disappointment is an inevitable part of the human experience, which unfortunately hits when you least expect it.

Maybe the hardest thing about disappointment is that it typically rides on the wave of expectation. Whether anticipation of a particular outcome, reliance on another person or planning for an special event; all of these scenarios are rife with expectation. So, when things don’t turn out the way you planned, you often feel worse than if you had never expected anything in the first place.

I was recently slammed with a major disappointment…my husband and I had been planning a trip back to the Philippines for months. I had already purchased loads of gifts to take back to our friends and set up a number of dinner dates. We were running a tight schedule prior to our departure. In fact, we were flying out on the heels of a week away, so I had only an afternoon left to pack our clothes before departing for Asia early Monday morning.

However, as we drove the 3-hour trip back home on Sunday afternoon, my head began throbbing and before I knew what hit me, I was experiencing the worst headache of my life. By the time we arrived home, it took all my energy to get out of the car and drop into bed. My husband unpacked the car from our trip and stacked all of our purchases in the corner of the living room.

Every few hours he would poke his head in the door, hoping for any sign of improvement. But, as the hours passed, we both eventually had to face the reality that I wasn’t going to make the trip. I knew he hated to go without me, but there was no way I could go on a 26-hour flight feeling that way. He finally called to cancel my ticket around 10:30 that evening.

dealing with disappointment, plane taking off

Dealing With Disappointment

I was bummed to miss the trip and I experienced more than one twinge of disappointment as he recounted his various adventures over the phone throughout the next two weeks. But, that didn’t mean I had to walk around under a cloud of “woe is me” until he returned.

Dealing with disappointment is a skill each of us must master in life. Face it…we all have to deal…the true question is whether we ride the wave or allow inevitable disappointments to drag us under. Ultimately, I had to make a conscious decision to move on when things didn’t go exactly as I planned.

Here are some important things to consider when dealing with disappointment:

1. Don’t Take Disappointment Personally

Don’t fall into the trap of “woe is me” when disappointments come. We can easily convince ourselves that the universe has conspired to wreck our lives, when in actuality, it’s just a fact that no one gets 100% of what they want 100% of the time.

Take a deep breath and acknowledge your present situation. Only you can decide where to go from here.

2. Step Back To Look At The Big Picture

As I have mentioned often in previous posts (here, here and here), perspective is everything. Take a moment to look at this disappointment in light of your life as a whole. Will this one disappointment derail your life? Make a list of the things that are going OK. Would someone else dream of living your life, just as it is right now?

3. Consider What You Can Learn

We like to think that everything that goes wrong has to be someone’s fault and we often want that “someone” to someone ELSE. But in reality, if we take an honest look, we can learn a lot about ourselves when disappointments come.

Ask yourself, “am I gracious and flexible?” If not, do you live with a sense of inherent entitlement? Disappointments can be great learning and growing opportunities, but learning only comes from honest introspection.

4. Look For The Silver Lining

Silver linings are often found when you look for them. In the end, my missed trip allowed me to be home when my husband’s dad underwent unexpected surgery. Consider what new opportunities might have been afforded by your recent disappointment; possibly a change in direction, a pursuit of new activities to occupy time or a new relationship to replace the old.

dealing with disappointment

Here are some notable quotes to consider when you are dealing with disappointment. Pick one or more to write down.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

As someone who has faced as much disappointment as most people, I’ve come to trust not that events will always unfold exactly as I want, but that I will be fine either way. – Marianne Williamson

Usually a feeling of disappointment follows the book, because what I hoped to write is not what I actually accomplished. However, it becomes a motivation to write the next book. – Anita Desai

Burning desire to be or do something gives us staying power – a reason to get up every morning or to pick ourselves up and start in again after a disappointment. – Marsha Sinetar

The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality. – Conan O’Brien

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Learning It!


  1. Michele says:

    I can just imagine how disappointed you must have been. I hope the headaches are over. It seems that maybe you were meant to be there for your husband’s dad and his surgery. It’s funny how things like that work out sometimes.

  2. Handling disappointments is a very important topic known to be shared. Thank you for the article and the quotes.

    Thanks for joining The Bloggers Pit Stop
    Pit Stop Crew

  3. Shellie, The Blogger’s Pit Stop is going to feature this most helpful post. Thanks, well done. Be looking for the feature on Friday’

    Blogger’s Pit Stop

  4. That would have been a huge disappointment, thank you for showing us how to deal with such incidents. It is so true that we so often want to blame someone else, but as you say it is only us who can accept it graciously and go on in a positive manner.

    Blogger’s Pit Stop

  5. nancy says:

    Oh what a dissapointment, I am so sorry. Hope you can go a next time.

  6. Oh Shellie: I’m so sorry you missed your trip! I hope your back is much better by now. What a great post on how to handle disappointment. You’re right, it does come to us all and being gracious and thinking of what we can learn is so important. I especially like all of the quotes you added at the end of your post. Have a wonderful day!

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