There is no two ways about it; we have all experienced what it feels like to be disappointed. We’ve been disappointed in ourselves, others, outcomes, the weather, our job, and just about anything else we can think of.
So, here’s my question: Why?
It’s a simple enough question! Why do we get disappointed? Is it because people and situations let us down? Well, I know that’s the way it feels sometimes, but that is not why we get disappointed.
In reality, feeling disappointed has nothing to do with other people, places, or circumstances. The fact is, being disappointed doesn’t actually originate with external sources, even though it might feel like it.
All disappointment comes from the same source
Can you guess what that source is? I’ll give you a hint, it’s internal. That’s right; when we feel disappointed, we are the actual source of those feelings. OK, I know what you’re thinking…
If the weather turns bad while I’m on vacation, what does that have to do with me? And if the new car I just bought is a lemon, how is that from an internal source? I don’t control the weather, and I didn’t build the car, so how can I be responsible for the disappointment involved?
To answer those questions, we must first identify what disappointment really is. Is it the weather? Is it a car? Is disappointment any kind of a person, place, thing, or situation? No, it’s none of those.
Well then, what is it?
You know what it is – it’s a feeling! And where do feelings come from? There internal, right? They are an emotional response that we create. In the case of feeling disappointed, it’s our emotional response to some EXPECTATION. That’s right; expectation is the reason we feel disappointed.
We get disappointed when things fail to live up to our expectations. We don’t go to Hawaii to bask in the rain, and we don’t spend tens of thousands of dollars on a new car so we can have mechanical problems. We tend to attach expectation to almost everything in life and this means there is a distinct possibility that we could end up being disappointed.
The role of expectation
Giving up on expectation so we won’t be disappointed is not really a viable option. Much of our excitement and enthusiasm in life comes from eager expectation. We look forward to things when we anticipate a desirable outcome. In fact, often times that excitement makes up a large percentage of the joy we experience.
Expectation can also work the other way. If we are anticipating a painful outcome we don’t call it excitement, do we? No, we call it anxiety. In the case of a negative expectation (anxiety), then we are glad when things don’t turn out the way we expected. We feel relieved instead of disappointed.
So how do we avoid feeling disappointed?
That’s a really good question. There are a number of adjustments we can make to reduce our feelings disappointed without sacrificing enthusiasm. Here are three:
1. Accept wider parameters. When our expectations fall within parameters that are too narrow then there is a higher likelihood that we will end up disappointed. For example, if you go to Hawaii during the winter accept the fact that you will probably have some rainy days. Plan some non beach activities around those days and you’ll be covered. On the other hand, if having a good time requires that everyday be between 78-83 degrees with cloudless skies, that’s just asking to be disappointed. So loosening up on your expectations a bit reduces the chance of being disappointed.
2. Live in the moment. Viewing your life as an adventure allows you to enjoy the greatest variety of experiences. You still have the expectation of adventure, but you haven’t hemmed it into a preconceived package. Instead, you have left yourself open to just about anything that comes along and your enthusiasm remains high. Life is always a experience, cherish that and you’ll enjoy the ride.
3. Value learning. There are valuable lessons in every experience we have. How do you feel about these life lessons. Truth be told, some of our most profound learning comes from situations that didn’t turn out the way we thought they would. Much of the time we get what we need rather than what we want. If learning and growing is a top priority for us, we will find reasons to appreciate a wide range outcomes and experiences.
It’s all about attitude!
In the long run, it’s mostly up to us to decide what value we place on any experience. If we are looking for reasons to feel disappointed, that’s what we are going to find. Things don’t always turn out the way we might like, that’s a fact we all live with. Being enthusiastic and full of eager anticipation makes life fun and exciting. Learning to love the journey is the best defense against the dark cloud of disappointment.
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