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Coping with disappointment

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Learning to deal with disappointment is part of a fulfilling life. Disappointment is natural and normal, and everyone will experience it to some extent in their life, because our expectations often don’t align with what actually happens.{{more}}

Sometimes life deals us a difficult hand, and events and trials arise that we have no control over. In other cases, it is our own actions themselves that cause our trials. Regardless of the nature of our trials, difficulties and disappointments are a part of life’s journey and how we deal with them will largely determine the quality of our life. This article will help us to effectively deal with disappointment by setting out four simple, easy-to-remember strategies. They are called the 4 Rs.

Redefine Our Rules

It is very possible that our disappointment is due to the fact that we have an internal “rule” that is disempowering. An internal rule is a set of circumstances that must be present in order for us to feel happy or successful. For example, if we have a rule that says we need to be perfect, it is likely that we will spend a large amount of time feeling sad, disappointed and frustrated, since no one is ever perfect. Also, if we have a rule that requires something that is out of our control in order to feel happy or successful, then it is very likely that we will end up being disappointed. So, when we feel disappointed, it is wise to review, and possibly redefine, our rules. Want an example of an empowering rule? Try this one: I am happy and I am successful when I give my best effort.

Remember Our Why

Our “why” is the reason that we are seeking a particular goal. Often a “why” is multilayered and multi-dimensional. There is more than just one reason why we want to accomplish a particular goal. Our “why” gives us internal strength and persistence… It also gives us courage to face disappointment and start again. When we feel down, or disappointed, or discouraged, it is helpful to remember the reasons why we are committed to a path in the first place. When we revisit those reasons, we will likely renew our commitment and not get hung up on the disappointment of the moment.

Recommit to Our Vision

Disappointment is not the end of the road, it is merely a setback on what will eventually be a great and inspiring journey. So, when we have those momentary setbacks, when we feel disappointed or discouraged, it is helpful to think about our larger vision and recommit to it. A larger vision isn’t defeated by a momentary disappointment. In fact, a disappointment can be a very valuable experience, because it serves as education, thereby making us more capable of dealing with what the future may bring.

Reset and Start Anew

Resetting, and starting anew, is a powerful behavioural habit. What happens when we reset is that we accept what has happened, and then we commit to moving forward. We don’t live in the past; we take what the past has taught us, but otherwise we move along. We wake up the very next day as if our whole life is ahead of us and we have the chance to start fresh, and nothing that happened in the past prevents us from creating the life that we have always desired, or from accomplishing the goals that we are seeking. Resetting and starting anew prevents us from wallowing in self-pity – a very disempowering activity – but rather forces us to get up, and move forward.

(Adapted from Ryan Clements)

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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