What do you do when life does not work out the way you hoped it would? Do you feel defeated and let it destroy you? Do you get bitter or better?
I recently applied for a teaching position that I thought was perfect. While I realized it would not be a complete dream job, it was one I thought was the best ticket for my future. It would offer a guaranteed salary with perks until I was ready to retire, which I could then do with dignity.
I thought about the position for several years, then planned actively for it for a year. I spent hours preparing the cover letter and resume, and even did two mock interviews in preparation. I was invited to an initial interview, but not a second. Suddenly the goal I’d sought for so long was over. Just like that, it was over.
In some ways I was crushed. I was extremely qualified and could not believe I was out. While I suspect all sorts of things about the process, I had to work through the disappointment and decide how to move forward.
Perhaps you can think of times you have had high expectations and put your eggs into a particular basket, only to have the opportunity ripped away.
When stuff happens, you have to realize that you have response choices.
How do you turn the disappointment into something that does not crush you?
How do you deal with the emotions? While emotional responses—such as shock, anger, surprise, sadness and disappointment—may be valid, they don’t have to dictate how you go forward.
Own your emotions, realizing they are real and valid. Sometimes it’s helpful to examine your emotions and analyze what is behind them. For example, you might be really angry because you felt disrespected, but it doesn’t mean you have to kick the dog or put your fist through a wall. Try to reverse engineer what you’re really feeling, and you may be surprised what you find. Perhaps the anger is a cover-up for feeling out of control or afraid.
Address your expectations. For example, I thought the job I mentioned was my only option to retire with dignity. However, once I was able to work through my disappointment and feelings of injustice, I started to look elsewhere. I had to realize that job was not THE only possibility for a bright future. I was able to locate some other opportunities, apply and had a favorable response in a matter of hours. It gave me hope that other opportunities are out there, but I had to be open to find them. I had to keep looking.
Consider the situation may not be permanent. For example, you may be completely frustrated with a co-worker. Then the next week, that person gets transferred or let go, and your situation completely changes. Problem solved. People and situations are anything but permanent. You have no idea what changes may be just around the corner.
Realize life will go on. You have not exhausted all possibilities. The person you thought you’d marry is not the only fish in the sea, there are other jobs to be had, and of course, there are always new possibilities to be created. But you have to get past a defeatist attitude to have the eyes to find them.
Take courage. When life lets us down, it’s easy to give up. But lack of courage will get you nowhere. Reach down inside yourself, let yourself be encouraged by others, and believe you can rise above the situation that really is temporary.
Explore other options. Make life happen instead of responding like a victim. You always have a choice whether to let life push you or you push life. You are ultimately the master of your destiny, at least to the extent that you believe.
So the next time you experience a large disappointment, consider the choices you have. And realize you have options you may not have considered.
Royalty-free image by Gabriella Fabbri in Italy. Retrieved from: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1198058