How to Turn Disappointment into Appreciation

With these three quick steps

It was the day that I would finally get to release our last Monarch butterfly. I had missed out on the last opportunity and I was ready for this one. The past few weeks witnessing the transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly has created a sense of awe in me, as folks reading my blog know.

On this particular day, my daughter woke up and checked the chrysalis. It was black. She knew that meant the butterfly would be out of the chrysalis soon. She moved the box containing the chrysalis to the kitchen island. She ate her breakfast and packed her lunch near it. When it was time for her to go to school, I suggested she put the box back in the living room. I’d sit by it and write, as she suggested.

She left for school. I reheated my coffee for the third time, cleaned up the kitchen, got my laptop and went to sit by the box. I put my coffee down and peered inside the box. The butterfly was out of the chrysalis. I just missed seeing it work its way out. I was disappointed. Why didn’t I listen to my daughter and stay nearby and watch? Why did I waste time cleaning? I was standing looking at that butterfly but not really seeing it because my thoughts had my attention instead.

During a pause in my thoughts, my eyes focused in. I noticed that the two wings, lined up close to each other, still held the curve of the chrysalis. I snapped into attention. I had never seen a butterfly this close. Its wings were gorgeous with white polka dots against a ribbon of black that looked like velvet. I became appreciative of what I was seeing. I forgave what I missed and turned my thoughts to appreciation. I recognized this shift in my thoughts and was proud of myself.

Shifting from disappointment to appreciation takes practice

Fast forward to that same afternoon. I had been giddy all day, reading up about the butterfly, knowing that it likely wouldn’t feed right away, but putting a small cap-full of sugar water in the box just in case. I was waiting for my daughter to get home from school so we could release the butterfly together.

She made a video the last time. She and her dad took the butterfly out to the potted red geranium on our stone wall. The butterfly clung to the red petals and flapped its wings.

I was upstairs when my daughter returned home from school. She yelled up asking if I saw the butterfly emerge from the chrysalis? Nope, I missed it, but I was ready for the release.

She instructed me to cup the butterfly in my hands and take it outdoors. She would video this release, too. She opened the back door for me and I headed for the stone wall and sat down right next to the geranium. I slowly parted my thumbs towards the flower and that butterfly was up and away. It had no interest in the red geranium. It flew high into a tree.

I was disappointed. I had anticipated watching it inspect the bright red flower. I was going to sit still and observe. Instead, I moved a lawn chair into the shade and sat with my head back staring up at the tree. I wanted to catch sight of the butterfly again. But I didn’t.

It took me about five minutes to be free of my disappointing thoughts and feelings and to focus on the present. To see the green leaves against the blue skies. To be appreciative of the cool shade on a day that was summer hot. And to realize that this particular butterfly was ready to fly.

I realized that this was the second time in the day that I was disappointed because things hadn’t gone as I’d expected. With the butterfly, I was able to turn my thoughts around in a short amount of time. When the disappointment is greater, we can get stuck there longer.

Twice in one day, these steps freed me from disappointment:

  1. Recognize and acknowledge the disappointment (or related emotion).
  2. Tune into the present moment and find what it has to offer.
  3. Make a choice to be appreciative in the moment, even if the appreciation is simply for the learning experience.

This process sounds simple and easy, and it can be with practice, but you must first be conscious of the thoughts that create your emotions. Many of us do not pay attention; we’re too distracted.

What are some of your little and big disappointments in life?

How could you benefit from releasing your disappointment more quickly?

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