Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about disappointment.
My 15-year-old son tore his ACL during basketball season and had to have a complete ACL replacement surgery. His injury and treatment meant a long and painful recovery. For a 15-year-old boy, a nine-month recovery period seems like an eternity.
To put it lightly, his disappointment was heavy.
Watching him and helping him process his disappointment made me start thinking about ways we all can use to heal disappointment in our lives.
Today I want to share with you five strategies to overcome disappointment, and the exact steps you can take to go from present hurt to future peace.
1. Accept the Pain You’re Feeling
Pretending you aren’t disappointed is like pretending you didn’t step on a tack. You can tell yourself all day long that it doesn’t hurt, but your actions are going to tell a different story.
It’s okay to be disappointed and to feel the loss and pain in your situation. You didn’t get what you hoped for. Maybe someone let you down or betrayed you. Disappointment is real and in a way is a form of grief. You have to feel what you feel if you’re ever going to heal.
Acknowledging the disappointment is the first step to overcoming it.
2. Ask What You Can Learn From This Experience
We learn something from every experience we have in life, both good experiences and bad ones.
While asking, “Why me?” is a valid question, it’s not a particularly helpful one. Asking, “Why me?” puts you in the role of the victim and nothing healthy or positive comes from that. It’s true you can’t control what happens to you in life, but you can control how you react to the situation. You are not a victim.
Instead of asking, “Why me,” try asking, “What can I learn from this experience?”
What you nourish will flourish. If you nourish a negative, victim mentality during your disappointment, that’s what will flourish. But if you nourish an attitude of growth, you will flourish.
3. Reframe the Pain
In the middle of a crisis, one of the best tools you have is gratitude. It allows you to reframe the pain. I use a fairly unconventional way to arrive at being grateful for the disappointment in my life. I make a list of all the ways the situation could be worse.
Let’s be honest; almost every situation could be worse. Focusing on the ways that things could be worse is a great way to trigger our minds into counting our blessings, and believe it or not, it adds a little humor to the situation. (Remember, laughter is the best medicine!)
For me, I also use prayer for insight. I ask God, “Is there anything in this situation that I can be grateful for even though things are not turning out as I hoped?” Both methods help me learn to focus on what I still have and the things that are still working in my life.
4. Find Your Battle Buddies
We weren’t created to “go it alone” anywhere in life. When you are in the deep valley of disappointment, reach out to your battle buddies, those few friends who have proven they genuinely care for you.
Your battle buddies will not only validate the pain of your disappointment, they will care enough to lock arms with you and drag you out of that pit (or out of the pantry if you’re at all like me)! They’ll help you find perspective and walk with you as you battle to overcome your disappointment.
Finding a battle buddy is a great way to remember you aren’t alone. When you feel like someone else is “in it” with you, it’s easier to remember you have the power to overcome your disappointment.
5. Focus On Your Future Self
In my book, “Breaking Busy” I talk about using the 10-10-10 method to solve problems. This allows me to think of good things in my future— where I want to be, how I want to be feeling.
Depending on your situation, you may hope that your “future self” is recovered from an illness in 10 days, or in 10 weeks your “future self” has repaired and restored a broken relationship, or your “future self” has launched the business of your dreams in 10 months.
When you focus on the good, on future possibilities, it helps you start taking the steps you need to get there. Sometimes when we are in the middle of the storm, when the pain is so intense, it’s great to have a little distraction and something to look forward to. I love asking myself, “What does future Alli think about this situation?”
You can’t change the past, but you can walk with courage intentionally in to your future.
At some point, we all deal with the pain of disappointment. It’s simply part of being human. But you don’t half to stay stuck in that pain. You can and you will get through this.
By changing your thoughts and your mindset and by surrounding yourself with a couple great battle buddies, you will get through your disappointment and come out stronger and wiser on the other side.
Alli Worthington is the author of Breaking Busy: How to find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy, speaker, blogger, and the Executive Director of Propel Women. Alli has helped individuals, small business owners and Fortune 500 companies be more successful. She lives outside Nashville with her husband, Mark, their five sons, rescued dog and cat who moved onto their doorstep. You can connect with Alli at AlliWorthington.com.