“Think about the scenario – the event has happened. It’s past. You can’t influence it. You can’t change it. You can certainly ruminate over it and replay the many, many things you should’ve, could’ve and would’ve done differently if circumstances were different. However, the reality is that if you are reading this, it’s likely that the disappointment is in your rearview mirror.” – Beverly D. Flaxington, Psychology Today
Everyone has to deal with disappointment in life. No matter how hard we try, there will be times when we do not meet our goals. Rather than letting disappointment make us bitter, it is better to take it as a learning experience.
I’ve come to this realization the hard way. I applied for a job I truly wanted and was not called back after my interview. I had already mapped out the great changes this job would have made in my life, both personally and financially. After I received the disappointing news, I was left in a tailspin. I had trouble concentrating at work and my productivity went down. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I perceived as my failure. Luckily, I was able to learn from my experience of disappointment. I will share the process I went through as I tried to rebuild my life and my self-image.
How I Learned to Turn Disappointment into an Opportunity to Succeed
1. Only I Can Define My Own “Success”
Rather than seeing every mistake as a failure, learn to see them as steps on a path. “Success” doesn’t have to mean achieving all of your dreams. Little steps on the path toward a better life will make you successful in the end. Even though I did not get the job I wanted, I gained valuable interviewing skills, and I took the opportunity to polish my resume.
2. Taking Responsibility
Rather than blaming others for my disappointment, I took it upon myself to understand why I hadn’t succeeded. Being honest with myself about the problems I had in the interview helped me to understand what to change the next time.
3. It’s Not Always Personal
Moving on from a disappointment also means letting go of the notion that the world is hostile toward you. My job interview might have been great, but perhaps the employer was promoting someone from within the company. Even if my interview was perfect, someone else’s might have been slightly better.
4. Feeling My Emotions
However you feel when you are trying to deal with disappointment, give yourself permission to feel those emotions. Clamming up and going on as if everything is fine will only cause your emotions to fester over time. It’s better to get them out in a healthy way, like journaling or talking with a trusted friend. I was able to get my feelings out through a good cry with my best friend. She reminded me of all of my great qualities and let me know that my failure on the job front didn’t make me a failure as a person.
5. Manage Expectations
If you are continually feeling disappointed, it’s worthwhile to take a look at your expectations. Adjusting them might give you a better perspective on life. For example, I stopped applying for jobs that were too far removed from the job I currently have.
6. Look at the Big Picture
As my friend reminded me, just because I failed at a job interview doesn’t make me a bad person. It helped me when she told me to remember all of the positive things I had accomplished. Even though I was looking for a new job, I had plenty of successes at my old job. Not getting the job wasn’t a reflection on me as a person.
7. Leaving Space for Opportunity
Sometimes when we are disappointed, we are actually opening a door to a better situation later on. I didn’t get the job I wanted, but in a few months’ time, I interviewed for an even better job and was accepted. If I had gotten the first job, I never would have had the great experiences I’ve had at my current job. I have truly grown as a person and as a professional and it’s only been a year since I started work.
While being disappointed is a tough situation, it’s possible to get through it with these seven steps. When you have a difficult experience, step back from it and analyze the situation. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and move past any grief you might experience. Look at all of the positive things you have accomplished in your life.
Overall, don’t let failure stop you from living a full life. Truly strong people are persistent and will charge on despite setbacks.