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Disappointment does not have to mean discouragement
Oct 18, 2014

Disappointment does not have to mean discouragement

Don't let today's disappointment cast a shadow over tomorrow's dream

- unknown


Everyone faces disappointments in their careers.  It is a rare and lucky person who doesn’t.  It could be not getting a job you really want, or a promotion, or pay rise.  Other than complaining endlessly to the immense irritation of others, how do you, or should you,  deal with disappointments?

 A friend delated the story of a work colleague who did not get promoted when she thought she should have been - she was, to say the least, very disappointed. And she let everyone know.  For months.  It started just to annoy everyone who, while sympathetic, were only sympathetic to a point.

While it is certainly important to acknowledge your disappointments and not just ignore them, you can make a choice.   The answer lies in learning constructive ways to acknowledge disappointments and move on. Learning to deal with your disappointments constructively can make you a stronger person in the end and the envy of others, who will see you as a positive role model.

One of the first things you will need to do in learning to deal with disappointment  is to recognize your old coping mechanisms,  and create new ones.  Everyone has them – is it overeating, having too much to drink, weeping uncontrollably, getting angry at the world, withdrawing from friends and family?  If you have a tendency to equate every disappointment as a failure, this will trigger your stress response and make you respond emotionally.  Failure is an event, not you.  Reframe your thinking to think of this temporary disappointment as a blip, not a failure on your part.

And just as you can reframe your thinking about failure you can reframe your thinking about success.  What does success look like to YOU, not what newspapers or industry magazines or Who magazine subliminally tell you what success is.  Reframe your thoughts from what failure is to what success looks like – TO YOU.

Failure is a subjective term. So is success.  Some of the most outwardly successful people are miserable.  If you have very rigid ideas of what it means to succeed, you will often feel disappointed, particularly if you base your idea of success on what is happening to other people.  

Acceptance is important  – practising acceptance for things you can’t control.  Sometimes you have to say 'it is what it is'– not what it could be or even should be.

You can honestly express the emotions that you are experiencing. This is about how you feel about the situation, not about other people. So don’t disparage other people to make yourself feel better.  Articulate your feelings without attacking or putting others down.  In the example above, dismissing the ability of someone who DID get promoted is likely to portray you as bitter and immature and stop you focussing on what you can do to improve the situation.

You can also accept that this is not personal. It may not be about you and you are not the only person who ever experiences disappointment in their careers.

What are the positives or opportunities? Find opportunity in adversity- there will always be one. In the example above, the person who missed out could get some feedback about what she has to do to make it happen, and have somone actively manage her career and promotion.

Put things into perspective – even the tiniest of disappointments can seem huge at the time.  Once you have felt or expressed the disappointment take a moment to step back and look at the larger picture – how much is this going to have an effect on you in the future?

For example, follow the 10/10/10/10 rule:

  • Will this matter in 10 minutes – probably
  • Will this matter in 10 days – possibly
  • Will this matter in 10 months – probably not
  • Will this matter in 10 years – highly unlikely


What can you learn? – did you have unrealistic expectations?  Is there something you can do differently or better next time?  All disappointments invariably somehting you can learn from them.

And remember - hard work, including on yourself, is never a waste of time.