WHEN LIFE DOES NOT GO THE WAY WE PLANNED...
How do you manage disappointments? When was the last time you felt let down? Did someone disappoint you? Did you lose your job or were you overlooked for a job or promotion? Did someone make a promise which they did not keep? Did you trust someone but they betrayed your trust? Were you diagnosed with an illness that affects your quality of life and ability to achieve your dreams?
The list of disappointments in life is endless. As long as we have high expectations of how life should be, how others should behave and how much we should achieve, then we will continue to have disappointments at some point in time.
Where do our expectations come from? It is natural to have expectations as it is usually based on our past experiences and upbringing. For instance, adults who grew up with critical parents or was bullied at school and felt they were never good enough, are more likely to think people are critical of them as adults. They are also more likely to have high expectations of themselves. This makes it challenging when they do not think they achieve their goals or standards for themselves. This can lead to disappointment, anger, hopelessness, shame or depression.
Many life situations can make it difficult for us to achieve our expectations and standards, such as chronic illness, unemployment and relationship separation. We cannot control many situations that happen to us but we can limit the disappointment and stress if we keep our expectations realistic, accept our circumstances and make the most of our existing strengths. It is then that we are more likely to maintain inner peace and find hope.
For example, let us discuss Greg’s situation. He is a 59 year old builder who has chronic pain from a back injury at work. His doctor declares that it is unlikely that he will ever be able to return to work. Greg feels depressed, hopeless, useless, embarrassed about his situation and self-conscious. He grieves the loss of his career, financial stability, the prospect of a comfortable retirement and limitations on his ability to enjoy life.
With time, he comes to terms with these losses in his life. Eventually he learns to pace himself, depending on pain severity. He rests when he needs to and does not push himself when pain is worse. He realises that he can still enjoy more sedentary activities and learns to appreciate other positives in his life, such as a supportive family and close friends, his caring and practical nature, his intellect and sense of humour. He also realises that early retirement brought about benefits, such as more time with his partner and a closer relationship to her. With her support, he realises how lucky he iss despite his circumstances. Greg now has renewed enjoyment in life given his changed circumstances, after he changed his expectations of himself and life.
In summary, when faced by disappointments in life, this is a chance to learn about our expectations:
- Keep our expectations realistic.
- Accept our circumstances, however disappointing.
- Make the most of the situation. Be flexible. Learn and grow.
- Be grateful for what we still have.
- Know that we are all human. People may not mean to disappoint us. Likewise, as we are human, we make mistakes and are not perfect. Forgive ourselves and others.
If you would like to find out more ways of dealing with disappointment and other uncomfortable feelings, check out series one of my Building Resilience books series. Click go to Doctor Harmony's Website. Although it is marketed as children’s picture books, it has great tips for children and adults alike.