Mindful Disappointment

Photo courtesy of drjimtaylor.com

Has everything in your life always gone according to plan? Have you or someone in your life always overcome and exceeded expectations? If so, congratulations, but I’m pretty sure you are not human. We all experience disappointment in our lives. We may be disappointed in ourselves or disappointed in another, but unfortunately disappointment is an emotion common to us all. And it always hurts.

So what can we do? How can we deal with disappointment in a mindful manner? And can we come out the other side stronger than we were? Let’s look into this emotion and our responses to it.


Disappointment: “Unhappiness from the failure of something hoped for or expected to happen.”

Merriam-Webster.com

Disappointment results from a failure to meet expectations. Logically, there would be two ways to avoid disappointment (and you all know how I like to think through an issue logically). We could (1) set low expectations to decrease the chance of failure; or we could (2) expect failure. Well, in this case, I am unwilling to accept either of the logical solutions to the problem of disappointment.

I refuse to lower the expectations I hold for myself or those around me. My motto is- Shoot for the stars and maybe you will land on the moon! I expect a lot from myself and strive to produce the best result, but with the understanding that any improvement is still to be celebrated. If I achieve my goal, great! If I come up short of my goal, but still improve over my starting point, great! Some shortcomings are easier to deal with than others, but it is important to take a step back and realize the gains you made in the attempt.

Similarly, I try not to fall into the trap of expecting failure. With every goal I set, I fully expect to achieve it. To go into an endeavor expecting failure is simply a self-fulfilling prophecy. Expect to fail and you definitely will. Large goals, life goals, can be frightening to fight for. If we do not expect to achieve, we may begin to hold back; to pull our punches. We need to be willing to give our all to every attempt at achievement. Does it leave us open for pain if we fall short? Absolutely. But if we are not giving our everything, we will never know the full extent of our ability. Expecting to fail is not an option.

So What CAN We Do?

Mindfully dealing with disappointment in our lives is a four point process I refer to as SPAR.

  1. Stop the bleeding;
  2. Practice gratitude;
  3. Accept the position; and
  4. Reset

1. Stop The Bleeding – the first step after a fall is to secure your feet underneath you. Don’t just keep falling backwards. Stop and see where you landed

2. Practice Gratitude- where you are is where you should be. If you stuck your neck out to take a shot and came up short, be thankful for the opportunity; be thankful for any gain you made.

3. Accept The Position – So what is your new reality after trying and coming up short? Look around, look inside, and do a true self-exploration. Figure out where you landed. This is your reality for the time being. Accept where you are and forgive yourself for being there. Work within the system. Be present.

4. Reset – Set a goal and start again, but from your new starting point. There is no reason that an attempt to better yourself and not fully achieving the goal means you should not try again. As a matter of fact, now that you have bettered your starting point, and you have more experience on your side, achieving your goal may actually be easier. It can be scary! I agree! But settling for less is true failure. Never stop trying to get where you want to be. Imagine that your goal had been a lifelong, loving marriage. But you ended up being divorced after 10 years. Sure you failed to achieve your goal. However, if you never open your heart to another out of repeating the failure, you will remain alone forever. Get back out there! A life lived without love is a life wasted.

Take Away

So the lesson to be learned is that disappointment will come and go throughout life. It is the risk accepted by the brave. It takes guts to keep expectations high and it takes perseverance to expect goals to be met even if not on the first try.

Disappointment is basically the result of belief and hope. When you fall short of a goal after believing in yourself and hoping to attain a goal, disappointment is a natural reaction. But don’t wallow in it. No pity parties for my readers! SPAR! Move on to find what is next.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the character Mathesar in the underrated gem of a movie, Galaxy Quest, “Never give up. Never surrender.” If you see yourself as never being done trying, you never see an experience as a failure and, thus, never feel the deep cut of disappointment.

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