"If you don't like something, change it.
If you can't change it, change the way you think about it."
This weekend a lot of people on the East Coast are facing disappointment. With a huge hurricane barreling up the coast, plans are being cancelled, places are being shut down, people are being evacuated, and events are being rescheduled. Up and down the coast, people are realizing that whatever weekend plans they made are going to have to be put aside or forgotten altogether.
I myself had some weekend plans that may or may not happen now that a tropical storm is heading my way and, like many of my fellow east coasters, I've felt more than one wave of disappointment over the past day or so. I probably won't be going to the museum I was looking forward to checking out. I probably won't be able to do all of the writing I had in mind (chances are, the power will go out and writing by hand just doesn't work out so well for me...). I probably won't be able to enjoy one of the few summer weekends we have left by spending time outdoors.
Most likely, this weekend will be a wash. A two-day parade of mini-disappointments. But, hey, that's life, right? Even if you're the luckiest girl or guy in the world, you're bound to encounter some disappointment in your life. Whether it be a rained-out weekend, a crush that didn't turn into a relationship, a job opportunity that didn't work out, or an accomplishment that didn't quite come to fruition, we've all suffered from setbacks. During times of disappointment, it can be pretty darn hard to see the silver lining. The negativity comes looming in and the positive thoughts are cast in shadows of negativity. Focusing on the positive seems like the hardest thing in the world to do when faced with a disappointment -- especially a big one -- but, hard as it might be, it's still possible to focus on the good things in your life even when you're battling a loss.
5 Tips for Handling Disappointment
1. Let yourself feel let down. It's okay to feel letdown. Even if it's a small thing (like me not going to the museum this weekend), allow yourself to experience whatever it is that you're feeling. Big or small, disappointments are not fun. You're allowed to be unhappy about them. But don't dwell on that unhappiness. Experience it, sit with it for a bit, and then move forward to #2. Allowing the disppointment to bring you down will do nothing positive for you, so don't let it hold you back for too long.
2. Get some perspective and see the big picture. No matter how hard it might seem, you have to take a step back and get some perspective. If you're facing a small disappointment, this is fairly easy. For example, I might be bummed that the power's likely to go out, but I can be grateful for all of the wonderful things I still have that don't involve electricity (love, health, etc.). When faced with a big disappointment, perspective can be tough to come by so don't be afraid to recruit loved ones to help you see the big picture. And, for added inspiration, make a list of everything going right in your life.
3. See if there's something you can change. As the quote above says, if you're unhappy with something, the first thing you should do is try to change it. Sometimes the initial sting of a disappointment makes us feel helpless, but on closer inspection we might find that there is, in fact, something we can do to prevent or lessen the disappointment. Give some thought to what's really at the heart of your disappointed feelings and see if you can seek satisfaction, inspiration, or motivation elsewhere. If you know there is nothing at all you can do, move on to #4.
4. Revise your thinking if change isn't an option. Once you've determined that there is nothing you can do to change the situation, you're best option is to change the way you see things. It's quite tempting to wallow in self-pity and despair when things are going as you'd hoped, but no good can come from doing that. If you want to handle your disappointment in a positive way, you have to change your thinking. Consider the disappointing situation carefully and find a way to re-frame it in your mind. Make a list of why this disappointment is actually a positive thing and you'll start to see the situation from a new perspective.
5. Believe in your ability to have hope. When facing disappointments, it's so easy to be beaten down, to believe that situations are hopeless, and to give up the belief that things will eventually work out. No matter what you do, don't let your let down bring you completely down. Keep reminding yourself to have hope and know that, despite the fresh pain of a new disappointment, you always have the ability to hope for good things coming your way in the future. Believe in yourself. Believe in hope.
No matter you're facing, no matter how hard it is, don't forget that you are not alone. Every day people face disappointments of all kinds -- from a tiny missed opportunity to a life-altering letdown -- and every day people overcome these difficulties and move forward with their lives. Initially it might seem difficult, but handling disappointments well is an essential part of living a positive life. If you want to live positively in the present moment, you must let go of life's letdowns and focus on the good things in your life. Easy? Not always. Essential? Absolutely. With any luck, the five tips above will help you to stay focused on the now and make the most of your life -- no matter what disappointments come your way.
How do you handle disappointments in your life?
What tips would you offer someone struggling with a major letdown?
Update: I wrote this article before the storm arrived and, much to my surprise, it wasn't nearly as bad as the weatherpeople had predicted. We lost our power only briefly and on Sunday I was able to visit the Kandinsky art exhibit (crossing that off my list of 28 Things To Do Before I Turn 29!). Having this happen reminded me that we often anticipate disappointments before they have happened. Sometimes (actually, a lot of the time!) the things we worry about or anticipate being disappointed over never actually happen. I will definitely be keeping that in mind the next time I think a disappointment is coming my way!