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6 Strategies for Managing Disappointments


Jun. 17, 2022 Psychology Today

When outcomes don’t live up to our expectations, when our hopes are rejected, we feel disappointment—a distinctive combination of frustration, sadness, loss, and anger that can have ramifications for future behavior.

We can feel disappointment over a range of outcomes—large, small, and in between. The greater the disparity between outcomes and expectations, the greater the disappointment. Managing our disappointments helps us in the short term by tempering the initial sting of an unpleasant outcome. And it helps in the long run by showing that avoiding disappointment shouldn’t deter us from seeking change and opportunity.

Here are six strategies for managing disappointment.

1. Remembering Why We Took the Chance in the First Place

After a disappointment, it’s useful to set aside the outcome for a moment and recall the reasons and motivations for our efforts. Most of us concentrate on getting through the present, so afterward, it takes effort to remember what led to our actions. Outcomes often obscure the primary influences.

By placing ourselves back in time and recreating the original context, we can better understand our initial choices. In that way, we can accurately evaluate our reasons and motivations without the influence of hindsight bias. 

2. Acknowledging Our Feelings

We really did want the job, and the rejection was unpleasant. We shouldn’t dwell on the outcome, but we also shouldn’t engage in premature positivity. Accepting the emotion of disappointment, however painful, allows us to understand our disappointment more fully.

This understanding then removes the power of disappointment and diminishes its future influence, opening us up to a wider spectrum of opportunities later. If we know how disappointment feels, it’s not as ominous when deciding about future endeavors. Moreover, recognizing our disappointment makes us more self-aware in general.

3. Evaluating Our Expectations 

Were our expectations realistic? Depending on our answer, we may change our approach or our expectations. In Worstward Ho, Samuel Beckett wrote, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Although Beckett didn’t intend inspiration, his words can be interpreted that way. And they can also be augmented. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Try again differently, possibly succeed.

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