Coping with Disappointments – 4 Key Steps

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Life is full of disappointments. Little things, not your favorite outfit being in the laundry on a day you want to wear it to big things, like not getting the promotions you wanted, are all a part of life.  Life has many joys, too, but you’ll miss those if you spend too much time focusing on the disappointments.

Psychologists call the ability to cope with and move beyond life’s disappointments resilience.  Resilience helps you cope with disappointment and keeps you on the path to success.  There are key steps to coping with disappointments that can help you build resilience to achieve your goals.

Be Realistic

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The first step in coping with disappointments is to realize what’s going on and why you’re disappointed. Being realistic doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be optimistic but misplaced optimism doesn’t help you achieve your goals. According to a 2015 study, people have two kinds of unrealistic optimism: Absolute and Comparative.

Unrealistic absolute optimism involves believing that everything will turn out great no matter what you do, and you will get what you want.  Like a child who expects a treat even though they’ve behaved poorly, unrealistic absolute optimism doesn’t recognize that actions have consequences.

Unrealistic comparative optimism involves believing that you will never be a statistic.  Science helps determine the risk of many activities.  According to the National Safety Council, the risk of being in an automobile accident is 1 in 114.  Not following traffic laws because you believe you won’t be one of those in a car accident is an example of unrealistic comparative optimism.

When you’re disappointed, ask yourself if what you wanted was even possible? Was your desire a dream or something you can achieve?  Being realistic about your disappointments can help you cope by separating between things you can accomplish and things you can’t.

Manage Your Feelings

Disappointments are losses of something you wanted. People need to grieve a loss.  It’s normal to feel sad, upset, or even angry when you’re disappointed. Managing those feelings helps you cope with the disappointment and move forward.

According to Mental Health America, managing your emotions when you’re disappointed can keep you from making the situation worse. Imagine showing anger to everyone around you because you didn’t get a promotion. People will see you as jealous and not a team player and possibly decide you don’t deserve a promotion. Instead of preparing yourself for the next opportunity, not managing your feelings can lead to more disappointment.

Be Kind to Yourself

Blaming yourself or others doesn’t help fix the disappointments in life. By being realistic, you can examine why you didn’t achieve your goal and find ways to improve. Blaming yourself can lead to low self-esteem and feelings of low self-worth.  Success requires resilience and perseverance.  Being too harsh on yourself can keep you from believing you can find ways to succeed.

Researchers at the Greater Good Science Center at Berkley University state that believing in yourself is crucial for success.  When you are faced with disappointments, you need to be kind to yourself and look at your skills and abilities realistically.  Learning and growing will help you succeed.

Try a Different Approach

The final step in coping with disappointments is to try another way to achieve your goal. Once you’ve been realistic, managed your feelings, and considered your skills and abilities fairly, you are ready to find a way to succeed. If your goal wasn’t realistic, then this is the time to reconsider what you want.

Do you need more training?  Perhaps you need a mentor or the support of others to reach your goal?  Is time a factor?  Success is often reaching a series of smaller goals before you get what you want.  Do you need to commit to your goal?  You will rarely get what you want if you aren’t focused on achieving it.

By trying a different approach, you can find a way to move past disappointment.  By taking these steps, you also minimize the potential of being disappointed the next time.    

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