Sometimes life throws a curveball, and out of nowhere, you’re going through a major disappointment.
I’m writing this post so you can know exactly how to deal with disappointment.
And it’s probably very different advice than you’ve received before.
If you use the tips below, they’ll help you separate yourself from the disappointment and move forward.
And with that, let’s get started…
If you want to listen instead of read, here’s the podcast episode that goes along with this post — What To Do When Something Sucks.
My Biggest Disappointments
I don’t know anyone who says they’ve had an easy life.
I’ve had my fair share of disappointments.
Here are my biggest disappointments that come to mind…
- Scoring low on the ACT exam
- Scoring low on the LSAT (the test to get into law school)
- Only getting into one law school
- Realizing how much student loan debt I had ($206k!)
- Not getting the corporate law job I really wanted
- Failing the CFP® exam the first time I took it
- Going through an unexpected break up when I thought I was about to get engaged
Each one of these was really difficult for me.
I wish I knew how to deal with disappointment better at the time.
Thankfully, now I have more tools (all of which are listed below for you!).
Your disappointment may look different than mine, though.
Examples Of Disappointments
Here are some examples of common disappointments…
- You made a mistake
- You’re laid off or fired
- You get a medical diagnosis
- Someone you love is sick
- You’re rejected by someone you want to go out with
- Your spouse cheats on you
- Your child has something happen to her
- You’re not accepted into a program you applied to
The Reason Why
The reason why you’re going through a disappointment may be from…
- Something that happened externally (your family member is diagnosed with a disease), or
- Something that you did yourself (you cheated on your partner)
Regardless, the feelings are the same. And the coping is the same.
So, whatever the reason you’re feeling disappointed, here’s what you need to do to know how to deal with disappointment…
What To Do
To deal with disappointment, follow the steps below (they really work).
1. Acknowledge what happened. State the facts.
The first thing you need to do is acknowledge exactly what happened.
I really like writing down the facts in this first step. If you write out only the facts (and not your thoughts about the facts), you’ll start to separate out what really happened from your thoughts. Your thoughts are always optional, so this exercise will begin to help you see if you’re causing additional suffering on top of the pain of whatever happened.
2. State how you feel about the facts.
Next, name the feeling you’re experiencing.
This may sound weird, but just do it. It works.
The feeling should be one word.
For example, you might be feeling: shame, guilt, powerless, angry, fear, or something else.
Be careful to really pay attention to the exact feeling you’re experiencing. Don’t just go with “bad” – be specific.
Don’t say, “I feel like this shouldn’t be happening.” This is a thought. Not a feeling. The feeling might be angry.
Most likely you’ll want to undo this. and you won’t be able to. It’s okay. This is totally normal.
3. Ask yourself if you want to feel how you’re feeling.
Remember, your thoughts cause your feelings.
- If this is new to you, read this post about how to change your mindset.
Nothing outside of you is causing you to feel disappointed. You’re causing you to feel this way.
But, you may want to feel bad. In fact, you probably will.
As a human, you probably want to feel sad or disappointed in certain situations.
The goal in this step is to make sure you actually want to feel bad about whatever has happened. Make sure the feelings are appropriate for what’s happened.
For example, I see people feel shame a lot and unnecessarily so. Shame is “I am bad” – compare this to guilt, which is “I did something bad.”
So, decide intentionally if you want to experience the emotion you’re feeling, given the circumstances.
4. Deliberately decide how you want to think, feel, and act while you’re going through this.
If you don’t want to feel how you’re feeling based on doing the step above, now you get to change it.
You can decide how you want to think, feel, and act in this situation.
Do not victimize yourself.
It’s so tempting and easy to do.
He didn’t do this to you. He did something. And you’re deciding to think about it in a way that makes you feel angry.
For example, your husband cheated on you. Don’t you want to be the type of person who feels heartbreak when your spouse cheats on you? I know I do.
This gives you your power back. It means that you’re choosing to think about a neutral circumstance in a way that causes you to feel pain. This is just part of life. It’s part of the contrast (the good and the bad) in the world. Nothing has gone wrong.
This is where we tend to beat ourselves up, be really dramatic, and want to talk about it incessantly.
I do this a lot! I’m a big talker and when something goes wrong. I want to talk at length about it with everyone.
Try to stop yourself.
Instead, choose how you want to think, feel, and act in this situation.
5. Experience the feeling.
Once you are feeling how you want to feel, practice experiencing the emotion.
I know this may sounds weird, but we don’t do this.
Experiencing an emotion means you notice it without resisting, reacting, or avoiding it.
Feelings (emotions) are just vibrations in your body.
Notice how the emotion feels, where it is, and practice watching the feeling instead of reacting, resisting, or avoiding it.
For example, if you’re angry, you can just feel anger without doing anything. Someone yelling isn’t experiencing anger, she’s reacting to it.
This is probably going to be very new and different if you’re new to this work.
6. Reframe your thinking by asking useful questions.
Asking questions is one of the best tools you can use to start to move out of disappointment.
Your brain is like a computer. It will find the answer to whatever question you ask. Asking questions also gives your brain something to focus on besides the problem.
Ask yourself supportive questions that lead to answers you want.
You can ask anything.
Here are examples of supportive questions to ask yourself…
- Ask yourself, “what does this make possible?” This is the question I used with my student loan debt. I had $206k of student loan debt. Because of my student loan debt, I started learning about money, then I started a blog. That little blog is now my full time business and will be my career and how I contribute to the world in my lifetime. I never would change a thing. Without my debt my business doesn’t exist.
- Ask yourself “how can this make me stronger, smarter, or better off in the future?” When something goes wrong for me, I also think, “ooooh this is going to be a great story one day.” I thought this when I went through my break up. I thought this when I didn’t pass the CFP the first time.
- Ask yourself, “who do you want to show up as in this experience?” If you can decide intentionally who you want to show up as, you’ll separate yourself from yourself.
Whatever question you ask, make sure it supports the answer you want.
Don’t ask, “why is this happening to me?” or “how could this happen?!” Your brain will go to work finding negative answers for you.
Questions are one of my favorite tools to use for how to deal with disappointment.
7. Be solution-focused, not problem-focused
The last step is to start to refocus your mind on the solution, not the problem.
Your brain – the primitive, fight/flight part – looooves to spin out on problems and obsess over them.
Bad things happen all the time. They always have and always will.
Nothing has gone wrong.
This is part of the contrast of the world.
It helps me to remember this because then I don’t feel resistance – I’m not fighting reality.
If you don’t agree with this, that’s fine, but when that’s not reality, you’re going to be even more devastated every time something goes wrong because you’ll have the added layer that it shouldn’t be happening.
Focus on how you can solve the problem that’s in front of you instead of focusing on the fact there this is a problem.
You might want to follow up with:
- How To Solve Any Problem (podcast episode)
- How To Solve Any Problem (blog post)
- When You Don’t Feel Like It (podcast episode)
- When It’s Hard And Problems Are Forever (podcast episode)
Words That Might Help
Okay, the steps above can be a total life changer if you use them.
But I wanted to also include something that helps me so much.
It’s a list of sentences that I use when I’m going through a disappointment.
Only use these if you believe them. If you don’t believe them and repeat them anyways, they’ll have the opposite effect (this is why affirmations don’t work). You have to actually believe what you’re saying.
Here are my favorite words to use when I’m going through it…
- Nothing has gone wrong.
- Part of life means feeling negative emotion – and that’s okay.
- I made a mistake. I’m not a mistake.
- This too shall pass.
- I don’t wish it were easier. I wish I were stronger.
- This sucks, and that’s okay.
One more quick note for you.
I know that while you’re going through something and experiencing a lot of negative emotion, it’s not fun.
But I just want you to know that you’ll be okay.
Not only that, but you’ll be better than you were before.
When you develop the skill set of overcoming adversity, your character develops.
If you never go through anything challenging, you never have the opportunity to dig deep and become the best version of yourself.
When you learn how to deal with hard things and when something sucks, you will be better on the other side.
This is what I’ve done my entire life. This is why I have grit. It has made all the difference in my life.
A Final Note!
When something sucks, you may want to hide, take fewer risks, and take a step back in your life.
Do the opposite.
Don’t let disappointments and setbacks mean anything about your future.
It’s the consistent effort despite the obstacles that lead to success.
If you can keep taking action forward, even after you have huge failures, that’s where you’ll come out on top and have massive success.
That’s where you evolve and design your dream life. It’s in the tough times.
You got this.
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