Finding the Beauty in Disappointment
When you think of disappointment, the first word that comes to mind definitely isn’t beauty. I can confidently say that for most of us, we would use words more along the lines of stressful, painful, or hard. However, some of the world’s most prized possessions and most valued items come from times of pressure, stress or pain.
You might be wondering how to change your perspective on the matter. We’re about to give you a 3-step guide to implement in your life so you can confidently say you CAN find the beauty in disappointment and learn from it. It’s possible! Let’s get into it.
Think of a diamond. It’s beautiful and priceless today, but it comes about after enduring centuries of intense, crushing pressure, which turns ordinary carbon into a sparkling, expensive jewel.
Or consider the pearl. Natural pearls are formed when some sort of painful irritant, such as a piece of sand or an invading parasite, get into an oyster. The oyster must build its defenses, and it does so by literally building coating around the invader or the irritant, which becomes a beautiful, glowing pearl.
Neither of these things happen on their own, or come out of a pleasurable, easy moment. They’re examples of nature turning something negative into something positive that we treasure now.
The same can be said of your disappointment and a negative situation or experience that you’ve encountered. Disappointment can turn into joy when we look at that situation or experience and look for the positives. What can you learn from this moment? How can this negative experience help you to grow and become more grounded, more self-empowered, and more fulfilled?
1. Embrace the Challenge
Look at this disappointing situation that you’re going through as an exciting challenge to embrace. When you see it less as something that is holding you back, and more as something challenging you to push forward, your approach changes on a spiritual and emotional level.
“To lead an authentic life, we need to take on new challenges that stretch us and give us more opportunities to be ourselves,” says Stephen Joseph, Ph.D., an expert on positive psychology. “It is not that the authentic person does not feel the same fear; rather, they are simply more willing to face their fear.”
So, face that fear! Face that disappointment! Face the challenge of looking for what good or what wisdom can be discerned in the disappointment.
In Richard Carlson’s book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” he writes about pretending that everyone around you is fully enlightened...except for you. In other words, he suggests that we view every person you meet as an opportunity for you to learn from that person, even if you perceive that person as frustrating or annoying or a bore.
You can take that same mindset and that same approach to life in general. View every moment as an invitation to attain enlightenment, become more of your authentic self, and find more of your purpose. When you take on that mindset, you don’t immediately jump to, “Wow, this situation is disappointing.” Instead, you consider, “How is this situation meant to teach me something positive and valuable?”
2. Don’t Gloss Over What You’ve Done
We’re all owners of our lives, even if we can’t control every aspect of our lives. There are things we do, say or choose that contribute to our life experiences. That is not to say that every disappointment or challenge is “your fault.” Rather, it’s taking stock of a situation and acknowledging any missteps you might have taken in order for you to learn from that and choose to not do that again.
Have you ever had someone give you an apology like, “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “My apologies if you didn’t understand what I was saying.” This is a quintessential example of someone refusing to take ownership of their actions or words, and not wanting to acknowledge any errors they’ve made.
Don’t be that person, because glossing over a misstep robs you of the chance to learn from that mistake. Instead, acknowledge that perhaps you could have handled a situation differently, or done something in a different manner.
A few simple questions can help:
What went wrong in this situation?
What could I have done or said differently, or better, the next time this situation comes up?
What can I learn from this experience?
By running through this basic list, you can get some perspective, and you also can more quickly see the lesson that life is presenting to you right now.
3. Make a Game Plan
Wallowing in disappointment or beating yourself up for things you might have said or done that you regret, won't make this situation better. Nor will it help you in the future to learn from this experience and avoid it from happening again. Make a plan that anchors you in whatever you've learned or taken from this disappointing situation.
“Brainstorm potential ways to deal with the situation,” suggests psychotherapist Amy Morin. “You’re likely to have more options than you might think. Spend time thinking about how you can respond to a tough situation. Even if you can’t fix it, you can develop a plan to cope with it. For example, determine who you can call on for support and how you can keep going even when you don’t feel like it.”
The goal of your game plan is to make it harder to mess up again or experience disappointment in the future. Willpower and mental fortitude alone won’t help you avoid a mistake or a misstep. Think hard about what contributed to the situation that disappointed you, then document actions you need to do, or things you need to avoid, that this experience has taught you.
“Identify what is within your control and resolve to make change,” suggest Morin. This might include:
Making a list of actions that resolve the situation that’s causing you grief
Documenting people who can support you in times of disappointment
Finding an accountability partner who can check in with you and keep you from making the same mistakes again
Changing your environment to be more supportive of whatever mindset or actions you’ve learned you need to do after experiencing this disappointment
Increase your chances of success by making it harder to be disappointed again. Learning from your disappointment helps you overcome your disappointment, and then acting on what you learn can help you evolve and improve yourself or your situation so that this situation doesn’t happen again. That right there is the beauty in disappointment, using it as fuel to become better!