How to Deal with Disappointment

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” — Martin Luther King Jr. 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve most certainly been disappointed in my life. I’ve been let down by others in business and in my personal life. But I’ve also let my self down. I’ve given up on things. I threw in that proverbial towel and called it quits. But through all the pain and heartache, somewhere along the way, I learned how to deal with disappointment.

Disappointment is just one way to help describe failure. I’ve failed numerous times in my life. Each time hurt, driving a dagger deep into my heart. I’ve shed tears and cried my heart out more times than I would like to recall. But looking back on all of it now, I realize that there was a reason for it all. Through those disappointments and failures, I became who I am today.

Life is funny like that. One moment you’re wading through the seas of hopeless and despair, and the next moment you’ve landed on the shores of hope. You’re thrown what seems like an invisible lifeline. Somewhere in the ether, through that endless and infinite energy that binds us all, inspiration and motivation strikes. Something sparks a radical change and you shift your way of thinking.

If you’ve landed on this page and you’ve been dealing with disappointment, you’ve suffered a major failure or you’ve simply lost hope in life, then my heart goes out to you. But I know that feeling all too well. Being on the verge of utter destruction and despair, mentally peering down from the edge of the cliff and watching your life flash in front of your very eyes, isn’t a good feeling.


Moving Past Disappointment

The truth? Life isn’t easy. No matter where you turn, you’re faced with struggle. You fight the seemingly good fight, but to no avail. However, the biggest thing that I did learn is that life is most certainly worth it. It’s through our struggles that we grow. It’s through heartache that we reach newer and deeper understandings about life, become more empathetic and strive to contribute in new ways to the world.

While words might not always help to ease the pain, they do help to paint a picture. What’s important to understand is that life is precious. We’re here one day and gone the next. The rug can be pulled out from under us at any moment, so we have to enjoy it for what it’s worth. We have to look past the disappointments as much as they might hurt in the moment.

There are, however, ways that you can move past disappointment. There are ways of dealing with disappointment that I’ve personally relied upon in the past. While it’s never easy to endure the pain, resent and utter grief that comes along with disappointment at times, there are strategies and methods to help you overcome it.


#1 — Understand that clarity is power

Disappointment is rooted in negative emotions such as fear, worry, anxiety and stress. It’s based on an apathetic foundation, replete with a near-total loss of enthusiasm. When we’re disappointed in things, we lack the willpower to continue on. But through disappointment, we can gain clarity. And clarity is power.

After the initial sense of loss and upset, disappointment should lead to clarity. It helps us to gain an understanding of who we are and what we want. Depending on the nature of the disappointment, we can use that clarity to fuel us, pushing us forward towards the object of our desires.

Anytime that I experienced disappointment, it was never easy to get past it. It took a lot of mental wrangling, working to understand what I truly wanted in life. But through that pain and failure, clarity arose. I learned to deal with disappointments, not by ignoring them or trying to mask the pain through other means, but by actually allowing myself to experience those feelings.

Take the time to use your disappointment to your benefit by getting really clear on what it is you want and don’t want in your life. What are you no longer willing to put up with? What do you really want out of life now? Come up with some powerful reasons why you won’t waver in the future from your path.

Sometimes, our disappointments are the result of failures that were born from a lack of will or persistence to keep moving forward. If you didn’t see things through because you gave up, maybe those things weren’t as important to you to begin with.


#2 — Create purposeful goals

Sometimes, we fail at things that we’re utterly disappointed about, but don’t realize that failure might have been a result of the lack of purposeful goals. Purpose and a deep-down desire, along with a burning reason you must achieve something, are at the heart of achievement. No matter the type of goals we’re talking about, when they lack purpose, they often lack our conviction.

Looking back at some of my past failures, I can tell you right now that those goals lacked strong-enough purpose to me. Know why? Because when I’ve truly wanted something in life — and I mean really wanted it and didn’t just convince myself I wanted it — I achieved it. Excuses never got in my way, nor did failure, rejection or an other type of setback.

When you’re dealing with disappointment, it’s the perfect opportunity to reshape your goals. Give them real purpose. When your goals have purpose, they have power. To create purposeful goals, make sure that you set goals using the SMARTER method.

It’s also important to keep in mind that goals that are set on paper and defined in front of you, are far more likely to be achieved. This has been validated time and time again through one study after another. The most popular one is the Harvard MBA study, which tracked the 1979 graduating class of Harvard MBA students’ goals.

Specifically, the research looked at how many of the students had set clear and definable goals that were also written out and planned for prior to graduation. At the outset, only 3% had done this, whereas 13% had set goals but hadn’t written them out, and 84% had not set any goals whatsoever. The results were that 10 years later, the 3% that had set goals and made a plan for their attainment were making 10 times as much as the other 97%.


#3 — Develop a Detailed Massive-Action Plan

The next way to help you deal with disappointment and to overcome the heartache associated with setbacks and failures, is to develop a detailed massive-action plan towards your new and more purposeful goals. Massive-action plans are the perfect guide towards achieving your dreams. This doesn’t mean you need to know every step of the way; this just gives you a general sense of direction.

Think about this for a moment. An airplane heading from Los Angeles to New York City has a goal. Its goal is to land at JFK airport, for example, at 8pm on Sunday. The purpose of the plane’s goal is to carry passengers from one city to the other because the airline is in the business of doing so. However, the plane also has a massive-action plan that’s quite intricate.

The plane’s plan is called its flight plan. It knows when it will take off, which direction it will travel in, what the average speed of travel will be and what time it will land at its destination. This is the plane’s massive action plan. However, the plane doesn’t know every square inch of airspace it will traverse and at what exact altitude it will travel during its entire flight.

When there’s air-traffic congestion, a storm or severe turbulence, the plane needs to adjust its plan. It might even need to speed up, slow down, ascend higher or change its course entirely to avoid certain obstacles. The plane’s plan is malleable. It can change. However, it does have a plan. Without a plan, the plane would not know what it was doing or how it was going to reach its destinations.

Similarly, you need a plan. Develop a massive-action plan to help you overcome the past disappointments. Use the disappointments as a springboard. Leverage them to develop something more well-thought-out and planned. Don’t think about the failures or the upsets, think about how you will ultimately reach your goal over time.


#4 — Focus on Who You Want to Be

While disappointments might hurt, and dealing with or overcoming them might be difficult, they are an opportunity to start fresh. If your life or some part of it has ended in disappointment, this is your opportunity to begin anew, focus on the good and discard the bad. Who do you want to be now? What are you no longer willing to put up with in your life?

Use your disappointments to fuel you rather than hinder you. Focus on who you want to be. What do you want your life to represent? We’re here for such a brief time on this earth that we truly need to discover who we’re going to be rather quickly. Because, one day, it could all be gone. While there are far more existential questions involved here such as the meaning of life, just focus on the person you want to become.

What do you want your life to represent? What type of value do you want to add to the world? Take the time to write this down. This isn’t just about an individualistic desire; this has to be more about what you can offer to the world. What can you contribute? What ways can you help others?

No matter what type of goal we’re talking about, whether it’s a personal finance goal, relationship goal, career goal, or anything else for that matter, in order to achieve that goal and move past the disappointments of the past, we need to focus on who we will become or what we will give to others. The conversation needs to be more about the “we” rather than the “I.”

When we live in a selfish state, we do things for the wrong reasons. Any time that we do things for the wrong reasons, we tend to end up in a state of disappointment, usually occurring after a monumental failure or setback.


#5 — Concentrate on Keystone Habits

Oftentimes, dealing with disappointments that result from failures and setbacks can be the result of a poor-habit repertoire. Considering that habits make up 45% of all human behavior, we’re clearly the product of our actions. Poor habits lead to poor results in life. If you have bad habits that helped to lead you to disappointment, then one way of dealing with that is to quit your bad habits.

Another way to deal with disappointment and ensure that you don’t repeat your mistakes, if in fact your disappointments were the result of your own mistakes, is to build up a cache of good habits. The best habits that you can focus on for this effort are keystone habits. Keystone habits are the habits that add the most benefit to our lives.

What are they? They act as the soil for other good habits to grow from. The reasoning here is that when you build up keystone habits, other good habits fall into line. What’s more? As you build momentum with your keystone habits, you begin to shed your bad habits as well. While this isn’t an overnight process, in time, this is precisely what happens.

For example, if you choose to work out for at least 30 minutes every day in the morning, which is a keystone habit, you eventually attract other good habits. You might drink more water, take your vitamins, choose healthier food and eat less junk, for example. In time, as more momentum builds behind the keystone habit, bad habits fall to the wayside as well.

For example, you might quit smoking, drinking in excess or eating lots of sugar if you develop the keystone habit of working out every single day. It happens over time because keystone habits are like the soil for other good habits to grow from and also act as the weed-killer of bad habits that might be in the vicinity. You’ve likely experienced this before in your life if you’ve ever built up a keystone habit.


#6 — Measure and Track Your Results

In order to achieve your goals, whatever those goals might be, you need to measure and track your results. You need some metric to help you understand how far you’ve come, where you are and how far you have left to go. No one likes facing disappointment, but you can only be truly disappointed if you give up entirely at something.

By measuring and tracking your results, you can gain some understanding of what you’ve accomplished. Often, it’s harder for us to see the positives when we’re working so hard towards a goal. The truth is that we often see the downsides and the negative aspects of a situation. We begin to questions ourselves and lose the motivation and inspiration to move forward.

If you set SMARTER goals in the begin of this process, then you’ve likely zeroed in on something measurable. Measure it every single day without fail. If you’re working on a very labor-intensive goal, measure it more than one time per day. For example, if you’re trying to save $20,000 to start your own business, begin by tracking every red cent you spend throughout the day.

When you track your expenses meticulously, you can see just where the money is going. When you don’t track it, confusion sets in and our subconscious has a way of masking the truth from us in an effort to help us get what we want. And that usually has more to do with achieving those things within reality in the quickest manner, leading to a lot of long-term disappointment.


#7 — Feel and Experience the Pain of Disappointment, Don’t Run From It

While the past 6 methods might allow us to understand disappointment and move past it by setting new goals, planning and taking action towards their attainment, I haven’t really talked about the disappointment itself. The best way to deal with disappointment is to actually feel it. Don’t run from it. Don’t try to hide from it or escape it. Walk through the pain.

I know, it sounds crazy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt the heart-wrenching feeling of utter disappointment. Sometimes, I would run from it. I would cower away or try to mask the pain by escaping into a variety of substances. That never worked. The best thing that worked was actually walking through the pain.

I said that clarity is power, and that’s true. You can get very clear on what you want by dealing with disappointment. But don’t use these methods as a way of escaping the feelings associated with disappointment. It might hurt now, especially if the wounds are deep and the loss was large, but you’ll be happy about it later on.

Failure, pain and the resultant battle with disappointment, helps to make us into who we are. It allows us to grow and become better people, more empathetic and understanding, more open to experiences and more in-the-know with what we want out of life. That’s the result of pain. That’s the result of failure. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, far stronger than we could ever possibly imagine.

Always keep in mind — this too shall pass. Whatever’s happening right now, will help to build a foundation for a better you. It’s God’s way of allowing the light to shine through, of shattering our egos and of putting us on the right path. Have faith and a deeper understanding that these things will make you stronger in time. As you deal with each of your disappointments in life, new doors will open, leading you to a bigger, better and brighter future.