The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.
It comes in so many forms, disappointment – a dinner date cancelled, a job not offered, a friend who lets you down. It may be big and life-changing, like a divorce – tthe loss of something meaningful, something all-encompassing. It can be negligible – a DVR that didn’t record a favorite show, a stain on a shirt you love that won’t come out. However it happens, it never feels very good – partly because, for most of us, we often feel somewhat responsible for whatever disappointment we are experiencing.
There’s always failure. And there’s always disappointment. And there’s always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums.
Michael J. Fox
I’ve been told on more than one occasion that by keeping my expectations low, I’ll avoid disappointment. That may be true, but I’m not capable of living that way. I expect a lot of myself, and I expect it of others who matter to me. That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?
So what can we do when we feel disappointed – which, when it’s an important enough issue, is always accompanied by a bit of the blues? How do we get past the feeling that we will never trust/try/talk to/listen to/believe/enjoy/consider someone or something again?
The most important thing to do is just breathe. Sit still for a while – an hour, a week, whatever it takes – and let the disappointment run through you, rather than take root in you. Let your expectations go along with your feeling of being let down or hurt. Realize that whatever the cause for your disappointment, you may feel a sense of responsibility, whether because of outsized expectations or missed clues that things weren’t going to turn out as you’d thought. When you’re in the middle of your disappointment funk, you may believe you’re the only person ever to be disappointed by…(fill in the blank). This is not true. We’re all disappointed in our lives. It’s how we deal with it that differs.
The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.
The worst kind of disappointment, of course, is disappointment in ourselves. As much as we expect from others, in most cases we expect even more from our own hearts and minds. We beat ourselves up when we make mistakes, we talk ourselves down to others to deflect the disappointment they – or we – may feel in our actions. By expecting little of others – and ourselves – we can keep the icky feeling of disappointment from creeping into our lives.
This is a mistake. As Conan O’Brien says in his quote above, it’s only through disappointment that we can find our way to trying harder, digging deeper, paying closer attention to what works in our lives. Yes, disappointment is the risk we take when we put ourselves out there and expect something back. But it’s a risk worth taking, because when we do get back what we are hoping for, our disappointments are forgotten.