New Year’s Day I was reflecting on last year – all of the blessings, accomplishments, and challenges.

I felt gratitude for my greatest blessings – the precious relationships in my life.  They’re the ones I call “gems” – to be prized and cherished.  Some of these gems I’ve just met in the past weeks.  Some I’ve known for decades.

I felt proud of my accomplishments.  Expanding my private practice at a new location, writing my second book, speaking, podcasts, and workshops.  Even organizing my shoes in my closet was a fine accomplishment.  Each pair stacked neatly in their own labeled containers.  A fine sight to behold!

Experiencing a hospital stay and recovering from severe bronchitis.  Learning what it’s like to heal from an incredibly high-risk state.  That’s a challenge, accomplishment, and blessing all rolled up in one not-so-fun experience.

I reflected on goals accomplished at 100% and goals accomplished at 0% – it’s quite the graph!  It’s fascinating to be a human being.

And as I was appreciating the blessings, accomplishments, and challenges, I realized there was a very predominant emotion throughout the year – disappointment.  Yes, disappointment.

Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed it in your life, too.

I realized being able to effectively process disappointment is an essential life skill.  When disappointment is left unattended, it can lead to . . .

. . . a toxic state of resentment, depression, sabotage, and/or retaliation.  Unprocessed disappointment can take you to a deeper, unnecessary state of suffering.

So best to protect yourself by embracing disappointment as part of life, facing it head-on, wrestling with it, if need be, and winning the challenge.

Disappointment can be experienced in three arenas – how I see myself, others, and how the world works around me.

I am disappointed in myself when –

  • I set a goal and don’t reach it.
  •  I work hard and results don’t come as quickly as I’d like.
  •  I vow to do something and I fail to honor my promise.
  • I repeat a mistake, expecting a different result.
  • I am duped.
  • I show up as my less-than-ideal self.

I am disappointed with others when –

  • They make a promise and don’t keep it.
  • They dishonor their word.
  • They lie to me.
  • They overpromise and underdeliver.
  • They avoid taking responsibility for their choices and actions.
  • They don’t give a s*** when they’re in a position of responsibility.

I am disappointed about how the world works when –

  • I acknowledge how often humans are cruel, irrational, immature and destructive.
  • I look at history and realize how human beings are slow learners, repeating painful mistakes in our arrogance and fear over and over and over . . .
  • I ache for the children who’ve been abandoned, neglected, abused, indulged, and undisciplined.
  • Power is used only for self-promotion.
  • Incompetent people are rewarded and promoted.
  • I am reminded that life is not fair.

You have your own list.

So how do we master disappointment?

1. Acknowledge

You’re disappointed. You’ve been let down.  You’ve experienced a loss of hope and faith.  Cry. Scream.  Talk it out.  Say it.  Feel it.  Own it.

2. Take charge

Grieve.  Yes, grieve.  It’s a loss.  Be gentle and understanding.   Remember you are not alone in this human experience of disappointment.   Seek to learn, so as to avoid repeating patterns that result in continued disappointing results.  Avoid overgeneralizations such as, “Why does this always happen to me?” or “People can’t be trusted” or “The world is insane.”

3. Reset

Choose your next best action after you have honestly evaluated your past choices.  Figure out how to do your life better.  If you can’t figure it out, get some help.  Check your expectations and adjust accordingly.  Seek to gain wisdom – learn from life experiences to make better decisions and minimize your suffering. Create an internal narrative that encouragingly supports you moving forward.  Persistently identify your blessings.  Avoid pseudo-gratitude.  Make it real.  Learn how to be street-smart with an open heart.

 “Don’t let today’s disappointments cast a shadow on tomorrow’s dreams.” Unknown