Disappointment: Why you should never let one go to waste.
Sometimes disappointment can hit with an intensity that can knock us down hard. When it does, we have to take the time to look for the gift our disappointment holds, and to be sure we unwrap it. Doing so sets us up to succeed in the game of life that much more.
As I reflect on the week just gone, disappointment is the word that comes to mind.
It started last Monday when The Circle, the daily talk show I’ve been contributing to was axed (nothing to do with the quality of my advice I might add!!!) Needless to say, everyone whose livelihood depended on the show must have felt disappointment far more acutely than me. Still, bummer.
In the days to follow, as I watched Australia’s Olympians in London, there seemed to be far more disappointment than there was jubilation. Olympic sized tears flowed as years of sacrifice failed to secure the victory sought and expected by so many.
And then again, back on the home front, my nine year old son Matthew got a nasty case of the flu, causing him to miss out on the Presentation night for his footy team who had won the premiership flag and a big inter-school sports day. Of course in the big scheme of life, this was not a big disappointment, but in his nine year old world, it was like missing out on his Gold Medal award ceremony.
Life doesn’t always go to plan. Sometimes things don’t work out as we want. Sometimes people let us down. Sometimes our hopes, dreams and expectations crash to the ground with a mighty thud. Over the years I’ve felt disappointed more times than I care to count (or list.) I am sure that you have had your own share of disappointments. Perhaps you are working through one (or several) right now
When reality fails to conform to what we think it should be, disappointment (often combined with resentment, anger, despair, sadness or frustration) rises up within us. Sometimes it can hit with an intensity that can knock us down hard. No-one is immune to disappointment. Nor would we want to be. It’s shows us what matters to us. As I told my beautiful Matthew this week, the better we are at dealing with things when they don’t go how we want, the happier we will be because there will always be things that aren’t the way we want them to be. He managed a half smile. “I sort of understand mum,” he said, before he started to cry, which triggered me to cry too. Sometimes crying is a great way to process disappointment. The only way out being through.
The truth is that if life always went the way we wanted, we couldn’t appreciate it fully. It’s through life’s disappointments that we come to value our triumphs, to truly savor our success, and to build up a mental, emotional and spiritual resilience that equips us up to cope better with whatever other hardships, hurdles or heartaches come down the pike. Because life being life, there will always be something else coming down the pike.
They say that as one door closes, another opens. That’s my plan anyway. But too often we are so focused on the door that has closed, that we miss the opportunity in those sliding open. Such a shame. As I look back on my disappointments, I can see a gift in every one of them…. even the most painful. Some have revealed to me strength I never knew I had. Some have taught me to trust my intuition more deeply. Some have helped me grow more compassionate. Others, to become more resourceful. A few have even been the catalyst for charting a new course that ultimately took me in an incredibly rewarding new direction I might otherwise never have gone. None of them have gone to waste.
When one door closes others inevitably opens. When you are stuck in regret, resentment and upset about what happened yesterday or worrying about what might happen tomorrow, you run the risk of not noticing the door opening in front of you today.
What’s for sure is that every disappointment holds the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit. I just have to find it. You just have to find it. The crew who worked on The Circle will have to find it. The Olympians who will return to their home countries a week from now without the medals they’d hoped to for will have to find it. We all do. In the end our success in life isn’t determined anywhere nearly as much by the times when things go to plan, but by how we respond when they don’t.
When you find yourself overcome with disappointment, the best you can ever do is to step forward into the day ahead, toward whatever challenges await (however unexpected, unfair or daunting) with trust in yourself, faith in your future and arms open wide to each and every experience that life brings your way. The most precious are often the most painful. Life can only ever be lived in the moment. We miss the boat when we spend our days stuck in regret and resentment about what happened yesterday or in fear and anxiety about what might happen tomorrow.
As you finish reading this right now, take a big deep , to the bottom-of-your-belly breath. Then as you exhale, let go your disappointments from the past and your anxiety for the future. Trust that right now, you are exactly where you need to be, open to whatever lessons life has to teach you. Responding courageously when life doesn’t go your way is one of the most invaluable. Whatever you do, just never let a big disappointment go to waste.
Who knows what door might be opening right around the corner?!