Disappointment is the feeling of unhappiness caused when your hopes or expectations are not realized. You feel let down because of the belief that you’re going to miss out on something forever.
All feelings have a purpose. Disappointment calls on you to modify your expectations. It’s a sign that things should be transitioning.
If you figure out what you can learn from your experience and change your expectations, then you can move on rather than linger in disenchantment. Once you’ve assessed why your expectations were unrealistic, you won’t repeat that particular miscalculation again.
However, don’t expect to avoid experiencing disappointment again. In order to do that, you’d have to give up hopes and expectations. Life would become dull and lifeless. A fulfilling life doesn’t occur without some frustration and disappointment.
Thus, the two common mistakes to avoid are:
1. Dwelling on the disappointment, and
2. Avoiding new experiences by becoming cynical.
An old Chinese tale shows how it’s hard to know when apparent misfortune is really good fortune and vice versa:
The son of a farmer had captured several fine wild horses. The neighbors were envious and murmured about his good luck. But the farmer shrugged his shoulders — “Life has it’s ups and downs,” he said. A few days later, the son broke his leg in trying to tame one of the horses. This time the neighbors whispered about his bad luck, but the farmer just shrugged his shoulders. Another week went by and government agents came by and took along every able-bodied man to fight invaders. The farmer’s son stayed behind.
Disappointment can lead to wonderful and healthy changes. It can cause you to re-evaluate what you want. It helps to set new goals and expectations on a continuous basis. Nothing helps more than a positive attitude and expecting the best again, but with a little more realistic outlook.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD