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Dealing with disappointments or setbacks

Have you listened to the song “Beautiful Boy” by the late John Lennon?In the lyrics he sings what has become a very well-known quote “Life is what happens to you when you are busy making plans.” He also sings that they just have to be patient because they have a long way to go until his son grows up.

How many times do we make plans and then "the rug is pulled out from under us" so to speak, with things we didn’t expect? Or we suddenly receive bad news, or what we have been planning and hoping for does not come to pass? Too many times I can imagine.

We are always going to face disappointments, challenges and setbacks in life. How we deal with them is what matters.

It has taken me years to learn how to handle disappointments and sometimes I still get caught off guard with compartmentalising my emotions in dealing with such situations. But what I try to do each time is deal with the setback in a step-by-step process.

1. Acceptance.

Allow yourself to accept what you feel. Whether you feel hurt, angry, disappointed, emotional, or frustrated. No matter what you feel, allow yourself space to feel the emotion. There is no shame in feeling what you feel. It is part of the process to deal with whatever has happened. But it’s equally important for you not to dwell on the negative because dwelling on them serves no purpose except it may put you into a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions.

2. Accountability.

This is taking responsibility in any part that you may need to. Did you contribute to the setback or disappointment in any way? Did you make a mistake? Did you not do what you said you would do? Did you make the right or wrong choice? Whatever your part in the story, good or bad, taking responsibility for any shortfalls is a step towards learning. If it is a situation where “life has just happened” and you did not do anything to contribute to the setback then move on. Accept and understand that it is an unfortunate situation and there is nothing that you could have done to change the situation. This is the part where you should ask yourself:

· What could I have done to change the situation?

· Can I do anything about it?

· If I can then what can I do about it?

· If I cannot, then how can I move past it; how can I move forward?

3. Speak to someone

Many times when we face disappointments it helps to talk with someone you can trust. Someone who can give you objective advice without judgement. We all make mistakes in life and sometimes when we have faltered, we feel embarrassed and we hide what we truly feel. We are afraid to be judged. And sometimes we feel that we are a failure. We all make mistakes but we are not defined by our mistakes. That is very important to remember. People grow and evolve through mistakes. It is a natural part of life.

Sometimes all we need is another person’s perspective to make us accept, take accountability and help us to move forward. The other person can help you see a way forward where you cannot. And you will sometimes be amazed at just how many support systems there are out there that can help you. You don’t ever have to struggle alone.

4. Do something to take your mind off the situation

It is always important to take a break from whatever you do; whether it is from work, home, school or even being idle. Yes, that is quite funny. One cannot be idle forever. At some point you need to stop. When I am stressed or disappointed about anything I find that taking a break is vital to recharge and refocus. Do something else like go out in nature, go exercise, go hang out with a friend, be with someone who will make you smile or laugh or feel better in some way. Do something that will revitalise you.

5. Learn from it

I believe that every set back teaches us something. Not every bad situation we experience is a bad thing. We may not see it immediately but with every set back I have experienced I have learnt something. And at the very least the setbacks have given me experience of some sort which has added to my growth. Sometimes the lesson has been for me to look within myself to see the areas where I needed to change. Often enough we are so busy looking to blame others or something else and we don’t take time to understand our part in it all; to consciously become aware of our own actions (or lack of) and look at the things about ourselves that we need to change.

This is about having integrity and learning to admit our own mistakes. In doing so, we learn and we grow. Something I also ask myself with every disappointment is “what can I learn from this?” That always helps me to put things into perspective whether or not I have contributed to the situation in any way.

6. Gratitude

It is very difficult to be thankful and to express gratitude when we are going through hard times. But gratitude is very important because through gratitude we learn to take stock of and appreciate the things we so often take for granted and for which we should be thankful for every day. You see when we look at what we do have and not what we do not have we find value and blessings in every walk of life. We look for the good and we live in the moment and learn not to worry about what we have no control over.

Every day I make a list of the things that I am grateful for during that day. It is my Gratitude Journal. Over time I have learnt to be grateful for everything that I do have despite all and any disappointments I may go through. This is because there is a difference between the feeling and being. Gratitude is something we can choose to be. Through gratitude we hold on to hope. Through gratitude we are able to heal. Through gratitude we become happier. Through gratitude we appreciate so much more.

Many times in life we have so many expectations and because of these expectations we feel disappointment. I learnt that the expectation is what brings about a lot of disappointment as well because we expect things to be a certain way and when things happen in a way that does not meet our expectations, we become angry, upset, frustrated and demanding. So when I choose to be thankful, I am able to look past the disappointment or setback and say “I am thankful for……..” despite whatever has disappointed me and that makes all the difference in helping me to move forward. I truly believe that gratitude is the essence of happiness in life. Make gratitude a part of your daily routine.

7. Move forward

Finally, it is time to move forward. You have allowed yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. You have taken accountability for anything that you need to. Maybe you have spoken to someone who has helped you look at the situation through a different and positive perspective. You have worked off any negative emotions, looked to find the lesson in it, appreciated what you have. Now, move forward by making a plan and setting some goals. Take things one step at a time with a positive mind frame. This is the basis for taking steps to face the challenges and to grow.


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