- Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.
How To Cope With Disappointment and Live To Tell About It
We all have them. Disappointments.
Today I looked up the definition of the word "Disappointment" and got clear about what it really means.
I'm nerdy like that. I like to make sure I really understand what someone is telling me so I look up definitions.
Do you do that too? Don't worry. I won't judge you for being nerdy too.
Here is what I found when I looked it up:
Disappointment is the feeling of dissatisfaction that follows the failure of expectations or hopes to manifest. Similar to regret, it differs in that a person feeling regret focuses primarily on the personal choices that contributed to a poor outcome, while a person feeling disappointment focuses on the outcome itself.
At least that is what it says in Wikipedia.
Maybe you already knew the difference between regret and disappointment. The clarification was helpful to me and it will help me help others clarify it for themselves too.
Basically, what I now understand is with disappointment, you are focused on the outcome. You can either let the outcome define you or you can use your disappointment to propel you in a healthier direction.
You get to decide.
That's the best part. Don't you think?
I believe we all can cope with a disappointment by turning it into an opportunity.
When I finished my degree at the University of Florida, I had the thrill of working in Fort Meyers Beach Florida at Lee Memorial Hospital. I worked as an intern in the first hospital based wellness program. It was a great opportunity. Because I was a youngin' at the ripe age of 22, I didn't understand that my position was funded by a grant.
That was foreign to me.
After working there almost a year, I was brought into the bosses' office to be told that my position would be ending at the end of the month because the funding was not secured for it to continue.
They told me that my position was ending.
I heard "We like you but you are fired."
What a blow to the head, kick in the stomach, sucker punch to my side. I was disappointed with the outcome.
But it turned out to be a good thing. My parents were already living in Texas and they saw this as an "opportunity" for me to move to their city and begin graduate school.
At the time, I saw it as an embarrassment and a defeat because I loved:
living on the beach
working with and learning from great people
having minimal bills
riding my bike everywhere
learning more about exercise physiology . . .
Okay. You get the picture.
What you probably already see is that it was an "opportunity" for me. I went on to:
go to graduate school
work with smarty pants people
meet a man I would marry
have 3 children
work with Dr. Phil
write 2 books
divorce the man after being married 17 years (while also a disappointment this turned into an opportunity too)
give myself a life and career that makes me smile every single day
How can you see your disappointments turn into opportunities?
First stay far, far away from this one very unproductive question:
Why is this happening to me?
Asking "why" will only keep you looking backward, in your rear view mirror. You would do better to keep looking forward to turn disappointment into an opportunity.
To turn disappointment into an opportunity, ask yourself these questions:
What opportunities are now open to me because of this?
How can I use this change in plans to move in an even better direction?
What choices can I make to get me back to the kind of satisfaction that I know I'm capable of?
It's really what you do when you feel disappointed that matters. When you turn disappointments into opportunities, you bring out your own value, giving yourself the greatest gift.
But then again - that is really up to you.
Until next time,
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