Disappointment is a killing feeling we know too well. It is a feeling of sinking in the heart, body, mind and soul. You literally feel your energy level goes down gradually, until it almost touches your feet. It feels like sadness merged with bits of anger. It can be described as the antonym of anticipation, like anticipation gone bad.
Eliza Tabor once said: “Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” I like this quote because it gives us hope, that even though disappointment cools/ kills off our passion in one instant, the result it produces is to our benefit, more strength. It is such an unpleasant feeling yet it seems inevitable sometimes. Yet, who said it was a bad thing? It happens frequently and commonly, and almost no one is immune to it. However, the more we overcome disappointment, the more capable we are of dealing with it, and the more resourceful we become in seeking alternatives. So what causes disappointment to hit our brains and hearts, and robs us illusion and excitement? Most importantly, how can we avoid it from happening over and over again?
People are creatures of habit. They’re creatures of hope and anticipation too, especially when it regards a personal matter that they really want to attain. Therefore, out of the eagerness to get to a certain goal, we start building hopes to get to them, and some of us – through imagination – may even start feeling they’re there already, which is not a wrong thing to do per se. Yet, one cannot deny that dwelling in such mental and emotional state is a type of illusion. One creates an illusion and believes it. The defining line then between illusion and turning it into reality is whether or not one commits to a set of actions that lead them to achieving their illusion.
Most self-help books promote such practice, and even go on to describe it as the formula or “the Secret” for achieving our goals. Yet, how many of us would try what those books say and believe entitled already of the privileges sometimes even in the middle of the road to achieving their goals. When passion gets triggered in our hearts, our levels of excitement rise to unprecedented levels, and we feel we want to act upon this immense positive energy. Sure, optimism and positive thinking are key in stimulating the brain to try to generate a productive perspective on matters, and therefore, not surrender to failure or bitterness resulting from feeling disappointed upon experiencing a constant failure.
When imagination starts generating more passion, which – in turn- triggers intrinsic motivation in individuals, they charge people to reach their goals with maximum force and without a single moment of hesitation. That can be described as action-upon-passion. This can be visible in cases where one falls in love; he/ she is capable of going all lengths to get to what they want.
On the other hand, while there’s nothing wrong with acting-upon-passion, but pausing to think every once in a while is a key element in the formula of success. The notion of going forward without a pause is commonly believed to be productive, especially if it was producing favorable results. On the other hand, going on without a stop is like asking a car to run non-stop without gas. Not stopping to assess the current situation is a mistake we often make, especially following a dense period of thinking or production.
The Need To Pause During Action
Circumstances change, new surprises emerge, and if we keep looking forward without moving our eyes around to have a complete perspective on our current surrounding, we may then become oblivious to any influences, factors or disturbances that may hinder us from achieving our goals. New learning is formed of the current obstacle, and a healthy brain starts generating other possible ways of going around that obstacle. However, this depends on whether one sees things from negative or a positive perspective, which also dictates their level of productivity as result. The more negative a person’s thoughts are, the more prone to disappointment this person is. Certainly, disappointment is a very unproductive place to be per se, but the knowledge forming from it is what determines its usefulness.
For instance, a man sets out to arrive to work early, as this is important to his entire department, and helps him score high in his boss’ eyes. While driving along, his car breaks down or has an accident. Clearly, there are several ways of looking at this hindrance; one of which is very common, i.e. one is unlucky.
One may say to oneself:
- I’m unlucky, and this is gonna be a very bad day for me from the looks of it. I wonder why I am not as lucky as others are!
- I’m hopeless. Although I have left particularly early this morning, I will still be late. If it’s not my own delay, something else happens to make sure that I’m late. What are they going to say about me at work.
- Life is always against me. All people go to work every day, but life just chooses me out of everybody else to get an accident or have a blown tire!
- I must’ve been envied by others because I am such a high achiever at work. I must be careful of all those evil-eyes at work! Mark said I had a great car the other day! He must’ve envied me for having such a fast and reliable car that gets me to work every day on time.
This way of negative self-talk or ‘self-suggestion’ (as Napoleon Hill calls it in his book “Think & Grow Rich“) creates disappointment along with a list of other negative feelings and thoughts. All previous monologues carry the potential of setting ourselves for disappointment, anger, fear, doubt, resentment, etc. They certainly are unproductive as they promote self-limitation, self-doubt, misery, feeling victimized, etc.
Other possible ways of looking at the same situation:
- It’s OK. These things happen. I’m not the only person with a blown tire. Let me call Melissa to tell her I’m gonna be a bit late today.
- It was very important to me to arrive to work early today, but it’s OK. Better arrive late but safe than fast but sorry.
- I have to keep making the effort to arrive early at work. It’s important to me and to the people at work, especially my boss.
Self-suggestion is a crucial dynamism, by which we constantly construct our self-image in our minds. If it is influenced by negative thoughts, it may pollute our self-image with unproductive traits, which lead to disappointment eventually, which then feeds self-loathing into the vicious cycle.
If we see ourselves or others as a failure, we are bound to be disappointed by ourselves or others.
Hesitation and Delay
One may quickly judge hesitation and delay as disappointing acts. One may also think they are obstacles in the way of moving forward. As a matter of fact, when we find ourselves suddenly hesitating to make a certain action, of which we had been contemplating for a while, it may just be the most appropriate step for us to do. In addition, we may spare ourselves the disappointment of a possible failure resulting from committing that action, or from not stopping to think about it while acting upon it. Hesitation in this sense offers an opportunity for further assessment of the current situation, which may well save us from a possible disappointment, had we committed the action we had set to do.
How can delay be useful? I heard someone say yesterday that delay is a good thing too, because it allows one to re-evaluate one’s expectations and take on things. It also reminds us why we went on to do a certain thing, or why we thought of someone in a particular way. The longer we heighten our awareness around the details of the current situation, the clearer our vision becomes. This way, even though delay may be a disappointing act by itself, it may still be to our benefit, as our re-assessment of the situation shall provide better clarity.
How To Deal With Disappointment:
Following are some tips that can help us deal with disappointment in a productive way, as opposed to the unproductive habits people usually fall for, like complaining, whining, silence, lack of action, etc.
- When you are in a situation and you feel disappointed of yourself or others, stop and take time to understand why you feel and think that way. Consider whether you – in the first place - had formed realistic expectations around yourself or someone else. Consider why you had those expectations, what went wrong that led you to feel disappointed, and how can you better improve your expectations next time.
- If you plan on doing something or committing to a certain action, like dieting or studying, and then you got distracted or disconnected from doing that, do not surrender to the quick trap of blaming yourself and saying how how disappointed you are of yourself. It doesn’t lead you any where but to the place where you are. So in order to achieve your goals, you need to pause for a while, think, re-assess the whats, hows and whys and then commit to following your objectives with the new expectations in mind.
- If you set out to do something and your interrupted by a failure or an annoyance (something outside your control), don’t succumb to thinking that it’s destiny playing against you, and constantly sabotaging your progress. Don’t blame anyone for surprises or new experiences. You simply didn’t know what you learned later, so take it easy, deal with it and move on.
- Always check in with yourself, visualizing a table of three columns in your head, categorizing your Thoughts, Actions, and Feelings separately from one another, to better be able to raise your awareness around what it is exactly that is making you feel disappointed, how it happened and why. Then, you can start thinking of better ways of handling the new situation.
- Follow your intuition, even if that meant your feeling disappointed in yourself or somebody being disappointed in you, because you hesitated or delayed saying or doing something. Your larger self is wiser than your existential self, so follow its lead.
- Always remember who you are at the end of the day, and what is your life purpose at the end of your life. Trust that and act upon this wisdom. It is who you are and why you do things the way you do. Also, it’s a much more peaceful place than self-loathing.
Disappointment is a very unpleasant place to be, and if we settle with it, we are only blocking ourselves from more productive actions that can be learned from that disappointing situation. Therefore, raise your awareness around the details of it and set new action steps to handle it. No one is perfect, and certainly neither are you. So take it easy, embrace life with all its challenges, and surmount them with determination and faith that one way or another, you will eventually get what you want to achieve.
With that being said, one may find wisdom in just following their gut and making a certain action in the moment, without hesitation or delay, and the result may be less disappointing than not having done it altogether. With this in mind, I’d like to conclude with the fabulous song Disappointment by The Cranberries.