In Every Disappointment Lies Opportunity

Written by on June 26, 2017 in Perseverance, Self-Determination

In Every Disappointment Lies Opportunity

Wherever you have hopes or expectations, there is a risk of disappointment.

You fell short of reaching an important goal; the bonus you were counting on didn’t come through. A trusted friend let you down, or someone you like didn’t return your feelings.

Maybe you didn’t receive birthday wishes from someone you care about. You tell yourself it’s not a big deal, but you still feel hurt and disappointed.

We experience disappointment because we care. We expect things to happen so we take things (and the behavior of other people) for granted.

This is the nature of disappointment.

How Fear of Disappointment Holds Us Back

Psychologically, chronic fear of disappointment inevitably leads to a pessimistic outlook on life. Of course, it doesn’t always look like fear because many bury their feelings of disillusion under anger or apathy.

But the bottom line is the more let down you feel the more guarded you become against anything (or anyone) that may put you at risk of disappointment.

And so you try to protect yourself by making choices that will avoid the risk of being vulnerable.

Choices that keep you safe but unfulfilled; stuck but secure.

While avoidance may help you minimize your exposure to disappointment, it also limits your ability to grow and experience true happiness and fulfillment in your life.

As the old saying goes, if you want to be happy you have two options: improve your reality or lower your expectations.

Realistic expectations for life are that we are going to be better today than we were yesterday, be better tomorrow than we were today. That’s the plan, and the key is simple: work at it.
~Jim Harbough

Should We Simply Avoid Expectations?

Many people will tell you the best way to prevent disappointment is to avoid expectations altogether.

I get the desire to avoid the pain of disappointment, but I’ve never been able to follow that advice, nor do I want to because to me the sacrifice is far greater than protecting my ego from a little bruising now and then.

Hope and expectations embody all the energizing emotions and sentiments – trust, excitement, and anticipation. They motivate and keep us moving forward even when we’re faced with overwhelming obstacles or critics telling us we’re wasting our time.

Sounds great, so how does it all go so wrong?

By definition, an expectation is a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. Too often that belief is based on little more than fantasy fueled by imagination and dreams.

This is an engraved invitation for disappointment.

  • Getting stuck in our vision for a specific outcome and consider anything other than our notion of the way things should be a failure.
  • Taking for granted that others will support us by behaving in ways consistent with our expectations and when they don’t we feel hurt and betrayed.
  • Attaching ourselves to a dream that sounded good (or impressive) and only after we’ve achieved it realize it’s not what we wanted after all.

The point is that your desires and expectations need to be connected to the reality of your personality, circumstances, and (especially) how willing you are to do the work to make that dream your reality.

Call it what you will, faith, hope or expectations; avoiding disappointment doesn’t have to mean dreaming smaller, just planning better.

3 Keys to Finding Opportunity in Disappointment

Accept It

Sometimes it’s hard to accept that things didn’t work out the way we wanted them to so we avoid dealing with it. Denying a disappointment keeps you stuck and ends up making you feel worse.

Allow yourself to feel the emotions fully and explore your thoughts in writing. Endless studies have shown that those who write about their feelings during difficult times recover more quickly.

Your response to the disappointments in your life is a good indicator of how you handle adversity in general and will inevitably define your future.

Own It

We tend to equate disappointments with people, events or things. It is true that life can be unfair, and sometimes people do some pretty awful things.

It’s also true that there is a lot in life that we have no control over, but we always, ALWAYS have control over our responses.

When you choose to own the events and circumstances of your life it frees you to learn and grow as a result of your experiences, not in spite of them.

Learn From It

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the hard questions about why you experienced a disappointment.

Could the real reason you didn’t achieve your goal be that you didn’t try hard enough or you needed a better strategy? Could it be that your friend didn’t even realize they were letting you down?

We often expect people to read our mind and somehow know what we want and need from them. If you do not communicate your needs and wants to others, you can’t blame them if they don’t respond the way you expected them to.

Disappointment doesn’t necessarily mean failure or the end. I’ve shared my story here a few times about the tremendous odds I overcame to achieve my dream of working in travel industry sales.

It took 3 years of hard work that included many disappointments, but each time I learned from the experience, altered my plan accordingly and kept moving forward.

There are always opportunities for growth in disappointment we just have to be willing to look for them.

Could it be that the more valuable prize is when we discover we can PERSEVERE through disappointment, and not crumble in the face of it?
~Author Unknown

So here’s my challenge for you today. Open yourself to the possibility that every piece of the puzzle of your life journey has value, including disappointments.

Accepting the power you have to create your own life experience builds the character that you need to live a resilient and fulfilling life.

Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living Start Here.

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  1. ikechi says:

    Hi Marquita

    You have shared an important topic. I know people who have refused to have any expectation because of the fear of failure.

    As you shared, as long as we see our challenges and disappointment is a process of growth, we will see opportunities and not failure. Thanks for sharing. Take Care
    ikechi recently posted…The Types of Legacy You Leave Behind With Your AngerMy Profile

  2. What a wonderful attitude your client has Yvonne! As far as other people, this is the reason so many people have a loathing of the very concept of expectations because they have been disappointed or betrayed by other people. Would it be nice if others always behaved the way we wanted them to? Absolutely! But life simply doesn’t work that way so it’s up to each of us to find a balance between trust and taking others for granted. Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

  3. Well said Chery! 🙂

  4. Hi Marquita
    Yes we do fail more than we succeed. Love John Maxwell. If you learn from your failures it’s all to the good.

    Accept It, Own it, Learn from it.

  5. One of my clients shared with me that for every disappointment she encounters in life, she looks for three to five lessons she can learn. That’s a great attitude to cultivate.

    I enjoyed reading your post, Marty, and agree that, although it’s not easy, it does help not to become too attached to the outcome. The other thing is having too high expectations of others. For example, we share a “secret” with a close, trusted friend and are hurt, disappointed, and angry when they repeat it. We forget that WE were compelled to share it. Why should be expect that the other person will not? Hard lessons to learn and accept.
    Yvonne A Jones recently posted…Mindset Matters: How to Find and Build Confidence In YourselfMy Profile

  6. Chery Schmidt says:

    Hello Marty ! Awesome title right there my friend! I am a firm believer that with every disappointment lies an opportunity.. Yeppers If you don’t give it a try, how do you expect to win Right?

    Great Share. Thank You Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…Don’t Over Estimate Yourself, You Cannot Do Everything!My Profile

  7. Wow, you’ve learned some valuable lessons, Sue! Thanks so much for sharing your insights with us.

  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Kathleen. Truth be told, I believe we’d be shocked if we were completely aware of the way we allow disappointments to shape our attitudes and behaviors. It’s just one reason why self-awareness is so critical.

  9. Very true William! I feel the same way every time someone says to me, “But it’s so hard!” Well, of course, it’s hard, otherwise, we’d all do it and there would be no opportunity for growth. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to contribute to the conversation.

  10. Great attitude Joy! I know what you mean about the dangers of purging our feelings, though I think the risk is far greater in email format than in a journal – yikes! Thanks for sharing with us! 🙂

  11. Beautifully said RoseMary!

  12. Sue Bride says:

    I was a master at the blame game but it was always myself to blame. I always felt I was lacking, and compared myself unfavorably to everyone. I still kept pushing myself (maybe to prove myself right if I failed?). I finally learned not to be hard on myself and to consider any failed efforts as learning experiences to benefit from. I would have likely learned earlier if it hadn’t been pre-internet times and I’d read articles like this.

  13. Kathleen O'Keefe-Kanavos says:

    Great article. The sentence that really rang true for me was “Psychologically, chronic fear of disappointment inevitably leads to a pessimistic outlook on life.” because it is so true for so many people. But your three keys can help people realize that when something does not go right it may not be completely wrong. Perhaps the lesson learned was the lesson itself.

  14. If you cannot handle disappointment, I do not think you can handle success. I almost think the two do hand in hand. Everyone, I think of being successful, has gone through some form of disappointment and failure.
    Not sure if I would appreciate success, if I did not go through the other first.
    Thanks for sharing.

  15. Joy Healey says:

    Hi Marquita,

    I work on the premise that “Mistakes are proof that you are trying”. I’ve made plenty of mistakes getting online – but learned a huge amount in the process.

    Interesting that studies say those who write about disappointments recover faster. I’m one who will put fingers to keyboard for any excuse – just to “get it all out of me”, Yes, I think it helps (although the sometimes the email / letter is best destroyed!)

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

  16. Well written (again), Marquita. Disappointment is the way of the world, but so is celebrating everything that can follow it. You can be disappointed in the rain and then see a brilliant rainbow…such is life with the things we put effort into.
    RoseMary Griffith recently posted…A walking day in Genoa, Italy – museums, architecture and moreMy Profile

  17. I think it’s human nature to look for someone (ourselves or others) or something to blame when things don’t go the way we want them to, and it’s important to acknowledge our feelings of disappointment. The important thing is to understand we rarely see the opportunities for growth until we can take a step back from the emotions. Sometimes it takes awhile … sometimes weeks or months, and sometimes even years. Thanks for stopping by Jeannette!

  18. Jeannette Paladino says:

    When I experienced disappointment in the past I always chalked it up to something I did wrong or my own failings. But I know you can’t always control your external environment. Life is unfair, as you and John Kennedy famously said. I used to get down on myself, but as I’ve matured I’ve learned how to go with the flow. I know my strengths and my limitations. The key is to build on your strengths and accept that your limitations are no reflection on who you are as a person.

  19. Very true Erica, but as corny as I know it sounds, I really do ascribe to that old quote, “Reach for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.” If we don’t at least try we’ll be forever on the ground looking up. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Great share Steve! I’ve been a fan of John’s for years and read many of his books. The point you make is spot on!

  21. I love your point Jeri, “it means I at least tried” and that is SO important!

  22. Very true Suzie, it is a process!

  23. Sounds like you’ve been blessed with a great husband Suzanne! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. 🙂

  24. Always appreciate your thoughtful insights Mark, thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  25. Glad you enjoyed the post Lenie, and you are right about how appropriate that quote is. 🙂

  26. Glad you enjoyed it Elise!

  27. Well said Emil, and thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

  28. I’m glad you found value in the post Phoenicia, and you brought up an excellent point about how we ourselves do let others down. I know I’m a chronic optimist, but I do believe that most of the time these missteps are entirely innocent and if we could embrace that I think we wouldn’t struggle so much with the concept of forgiveness. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

  29. Erica says:

    I was brought up not to have expectations so I wouldn’t be disappointed. As an adult, I’ve had to retrain myself to allow myself to have expectations. Disappointment is for sure a part of trying. It is healthy. Though it can be scary at times to admit you want something you might not get. .
    Erica recently posted…Why You Can’t Lose Those Last 5 PoundsMy Profile

  30. Steve says:

    John Maxwell wrote a great book called FAILING FORWARD. I try to remember the lesson it taught me every day: if we lived life like a numbers game, then we ARE going to feel like failures because we do in fact fail more than we succeed. Think about a guy who gets dumped by 9 girlfriends, but then marries woman #11, and they stay together until death do they part. Well, if you look at his life from a numbers perspective, then he was bad at romance!

  31. Jeri says:

    Disappointment can be such a great teacher. To me, it means I at least tried. I’m getting better at taking more risks in many areas of my life. Chances are, the task won’t do as planned, but what ever really does in life? This post makes me think of my time as a teacher as well. It got old listening to parents and students not being able to deal with disappointment in grades, etc. It must surely be the teacher’s fault… not.

  32. Suzie Cheel says:

    yes Marty , this resonated for me I am now able to learn from disappointment and move forward but it has taken me many years to be able to do that xxx
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…When You Love You The Doors To Prosperity OpenMy Profile

  33. I’m pretty old for epiphanies, but I think overcoming fear of failure is an important life skill I’m still working on. My father was a very negative person, “You’ll never be able to do this.” Over time, I internalized it into my own voice, but I’ve spent a lot of years trying to overcome it. Fortunately, I married someone with more belief in me than I had in myself. After 35 years of marriage, I truly appreciate hearing my husband’s voice rather than my father’s. My husband is also one of those people who says (and means) things like, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” which sort of summarizes your 3 suggestions for dealing with disappointment.

  34. mark says:

    Chalked full of some extremely practical life lessons as usual M!LOL!

    And I love the two options you presented, of either, improving our reality or lower our expectations.

    Sadly, we know and understand, far too many of us, settle for less.

    Thanks to your very sound and extremely practical advice, I created a word acronym out of your excellent M.

    A.O.L. (Accept it, Own it & Learn from it!LOL! This is truly excellent and very empowering advice, which definitely can and should be applied to every area of our lives.Thanks!
    mark recently posted…Do You Think Your Local Jeweler Networks Like This!Part FiveMy Profile

  35. Lenie says:

    Marquita, I know you end all your posts with “Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become”
    But this sums up what you’ve been saying here. Disappointments are a part of life – if we accept that then disappointments make us stronger.

  36. I love that puzzle and truly believe that there is something to be learned in every situation.
    Elise Cohen Ho recently posted…I Won A Blogger Recognition AwardMy Profile

  37. Emil says:

    I found myself nodding to your 3-point guide on how to learn from disappointment. It is something that I have had to practise in my life, as I am sure that everyone else has had to as well. Disappointment is an inevitable part of life, it is how you react and learn from it that is important.

  38. Phoenicia says:

    So much food for thought Marquita!

    Nobody likes disappointment. Like you I would not be willing to lower my expectations just to avoid possible disappointment. This would be like living half a life; no hope or trust in anything.

    As much as we feel others have let us down, we too have let others down whether knowingly or unknowingly. We tend to only sit up and take note when we are directly affected by a situation.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Learn to forgive yourself!My Profile