Part of being human is experiencing disappointment and having curve balls thrown in your life. Whether it is a break-up, being fired, or getting a speeding ticket, disappointment strikes and the thing we “wanted” does not work out. Feelings of disappointment may also lead to a sense of loss, sadness, and/or discomfort. Individuals set themselves up for disappointment when the belief that to be “happy” or “fulfilled,” X happens (e.g., I will be happy once I graduate college). On the other hand, these experiences can also teach and provide significant information about individual beliefs and core values.
When you feel disappointed, consider asking yourself the following 3 questions:
- What “thing” are we equating to happiness? Exposure to media and being in certain peer groups may increase the belief that we will only be happy if X is obtained—ultimately training our mind to be disappointed when we don’t get X. It should be noted that research actually suggests that getting the things desired rarely results in long-term satisfaction and happiness. Further, it’s the experiences happening in the present moment that often have the long lasting impact on overall happiness.
- Who are we equating happiness to or hoping that person X can provide fulfillment? A common belief I hear from clients is that marriage to his/her “person” will make everything in life better. In psychology, this is also known as the “halo” effect where one positive quality (e.g., appearance) leads to other qualities (e.g., smart, trustworthy, fun, rich). In actuality, much less information is known about this person and disappointment often strikes when our hopes fall short and when expectations are not met. Instead, focus on how the relationship makes you feel and if it is natural to initiate conversations and interactions.
- When is the time limit up? Individuals often create expectations around the timing of certain life events—which ultimately leads to expectations and unspoken rules around career goals, relationships, etc. By creating a timeline, success is often based on comparison our personal life situation to another person’s success. People naturally make comparisons to people of similar age and background, and also on who he/she follows on social media. Remember, timelines are self-imposed, often unrealistic, and likely arbitrary.
Try to remember on the process and journey rather than your actual destination. Practice openness and flexibility, and when you feel disappointed, ask yourself if those self-imposed rules or expectations are helping or hurting