As I was sitting thinking about what the next blog post would be about, one word kept popping into my head DISAPPOINTMENT. I feel as though this word best describes my feeling regarding a lot of situations that occured in the past year and are occuring this year. It’s like I said in my post “Happy New Year — The Journey Begins”, many of us wake up on January 1st of the new year to find that our old problems have not disappeared just because the clock has struck midnight. So we bring with us into the new year those feelings of anger, sadness and frustration that blossomed from our tree of disappointment; and that tree thrives as we continue to feed it our negative emotions.
In this post I will share with you my ongoing struggle with handling disappointment in a healthy way, and the steps we will take together to attain a peaceful, happy life.
1. Don’t Have Expectations
We can be disappointed in many things including people, situations, items and writers of our favourite T.V. shows. For the past few months I found myself feeling disappointed in people. People I never expected to hurt me, did; people I expected to be reasonable, weren’t; people I expected to care, didn’t. After a while, what I realised was that the disappointment I was feeling was due to having expectations of these people.
What are expectations, you ask? Besides being the key to a lot of our unhappiness, merriam-webster.com defines expectation as “a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen.” The key word in this definition is belief. A belief is a conviction, you have already made up and accepted in your mind that something will happen, and in doing so, you have not adequately prepared yourself for the chance that this thing that you expected to happen, just might not.
Have you ever gone to an interview for a job that you were so sure you would get because the interviewers laughed at your jokes and nodded a lot, so much so that you started daydreaming about the day you could walk into your current boss’ office and drop that resignation letter on their desk or started planning how you were going to decorate your new office. Do you remember that gut wrenching feeling you got when you realised that you didn’t get the job and would have to continue working in that place that you hated. Have you ever been sure that man or woman you liked felt the same way because they went out of their way to sit with you. smiled at you all the time and liked all of the things you like just to find out that they think you are great but you are just not their type?
That punch to the gut feeling you got was the disappointment of not having your expectations met. The expectations you got because you interpreted these cues in the way that benefited you and did not live in reality, which I discussed in my post “Lessons for a New Year”.
Now I’m not saying you can’t be a dreamer, I’m a dreamer at heart and that’s probably why I get disappointed so often. I’m saying to protect yourself emotionally, by being prepared for any eventuality. Expecting that someone will behave in someway because you would can lead to deep disappointment and sadness.
2. Recognise and Accept You Have No Control Over Anything But Yourself
So you haven’t listened to me and you have expectations. Now what? The next step sounds simple, but might be the hardest thing to do. You and I have absolutely no control over what another person, says, does or thinks, not even our children. Let me repeat that again. We have no control over what another person says, thinks or does.
I say that like it is easy but it is the single hardest thing I have been learning to accept. I say accept because you may recognise it and know it, but that little belief in your head that you can change someone will cause you to stay in a situation you should have left, keep nagging someone to do something they have made it clear they don’t want to do and overall lower your self-confidence because you wonder what is wrong with you that you can’t change the situation.
Acceptance doesn’t mean you don’t try. Your husband will never know you want him to put his laundry in the hamper if you don’t tell him that’s what you want. Acceptance means understanding that telling him to do it 100 times a day will only make you frustrated and won’t make him start to do it on his own unless he wants to.
You have two options; continue what you are doing and live with anger and frustration building inside of you, or change your behaviour and the way you see the situation. If you have a co-worker that you don’t believe is pulling his or her own weight and you feel frustrated because the burden is falling on you, you can either sit there angry and frustrated because you expect that co-workers should be mature enough to just do there work and not goof off all day or you can take control of your emotions and do something about it.
This brings me to the next step…
3. Evaluate What Response You Want To Give
So the situation is what it is, the person has behaved in some manner that is disappointing to you. What do you do now? There are four main options that you can have in response:
a)Wallow: — You can sit and think about how bad the situation is, how unlucky you are to be in this situation, how the person is a horrible human being and overall throw yourself a nice little pity party. Why not? The disappointment tree could use some manure.
b) Lash out: — You can lash out at the person or persons involved in, or who you perceive to have created the situation. This might make you feel good in the beginning, but lashing out reflects badly on you and makes you seem immature and unable to handle your emotions. In a work setting this would not be the most effective way to deal with disappointment. This is coming from someone who struggles with anger and who has fallen into lashing out more times than I care to remember.
c)Do nothing; — I know someone whose motto can be summed up as “it is what it is”. Essentially, things always work out how they are supposed to and oh well. I have never been an “oh well” kind of girl. I am a predominantly Type A personality with Type B characteristics. If I see a problem I want to fix it and I am trying hard to learn to let go of some things and say “not my circus, not my monkeys”. However, by doing nothing, you never really resolve the issue. You leave it to fester until you end up responding by wallowing or lashing out.
d)Learn and grow: — Why did you feel disappointed, what was it that you expected to happen or wanted to achieve? Is there something that you can change for next time? Could you have reacted differently? Is there something else you need to do to reach the outcome you wanted? The best way to deal with disappointment arising from unmet expectations, is to determine what went wrong, and how you can adjust YOUR behaviour in the future for a better outcome.
4. Create An Action Plan
You’ve evaluated the situation and your initial response to it, whether it was emotional or physical, internal or external. What did you learn? What can you do differently this time? The time has come to create an action plan for how you are going to deal with similar situations in the future.
So we didn’t get that job we expected to get and we were disappointed. We are going to start by accepting that they were other candidates that probably received the same laughs and nods that we did and fit the candidate profile better. We accept we could not control whether they liked us or not, but we like us. Now, is there a weak area in our experience? If yes, how are we going to get the experience or knowledge needed?
Changing something about the situation that ended negatively last time, increases the chances of a positive outcome this time. Instead of getting angry at that lazy co-worker, talk to them, tell your boss or breathe and say “not my circus, not my monkeys” when asked to pick up the slack.
5. Implement the Action Plan
Self-explanatory but I will say it anyway. It’s easy to create a plan, it’s harder to execute it. After we create a plan, sometimes we get comfortable and feel as though the hard work is over. Sorry to say, the hard work has just begun. Nothing will change unless you are serious about making the change and get to it.
6. Recognise And Accept That Disappointment Is A Part Of Life
There I go with the word accept again. Sorry but it’s true. No matter what you do or how you plan, an expectation will creep in from time to time and disappointment will happen. Even in implementing your action plan, there will be times when you fail to maintain your composure or you let something bother and frustrate you. The key here is to not stop trying because you failed. Even if it takes a while, even if you are battered and bruised, you have to get up and keep fighting.
Tomorrow could always be a better day, but you’ve got to get to tomorrow.
Originally published at www.theroadtome.co.