Wellness That Works

7 Steps to Deal With Disappointment

By Celine Healy Overcome Disappointment and Refocus on Your Goals

Have you ever felt deep disappointment? Disappointment with life? Been disappointed with yourself? Or, with others?

Have you ever carried that disappointment from unfulfilled dreams and expectations from a previous year to the new year?

Dealing with disappointment can be hard to manage, especially if you are not clear about the emotions you are feeling.

You see, the experience of disappointment can be felt via different emotions, emotions such as: sadness, impatience, frustration, feelings of stress, anger, self-punishment, feelings of lack of self-worth, or not being good enough. At its’ worst, the feelings of disappointment can lead to depression, if not dealt with appropriately.

In essence, the experience of disappointment can make you feel like a failure.

I know, I have felt these things many times, especially when I placed my trust with others and have been let down. Or, if I have not achieved the goals I wanted. 

The key to being able to let go and move on from disappointment is having in place a plan, a method, or a ritual on how to deal with disappointment, if, and when it arises. 

Dealing With Disappointment Requires New Skills and Clarity of Values

Disappointments are a fact of life. Without experiencing disappointments, you would not have clarity around what truly brings you happiness and emotional wellbeing. 

Disappointments can make you feel inadequate. That you are not good enough. Sometimes you feel a failure.

So, the key to achieving what you desire, your goals, is to learn how to deal with disappointments. And. Treat them as the imposters they are. 

I am not suggesting that you ignore them and try to pretend they don’t’ happen or suppress the attached feelings, in any way. I am saying, that you need to “learn” new skills” and you need to clarify what values are important to you so that whatever happens, you stick by them, and are not thrown off-course. This is about learning to let go and move on from things that are really not important in the long run. 

As I said, handling disappointments is a useful skill to have. A skill that can be “learnt”.

Most people who have not been “trained” in more skilful methods of dealing with disappointments, tend to wallow in negative thoughts and feelings. (See my article on this link: 3 Empowering Self Care Tips For Beginners: How To Avoid Sickness, Burnout And Exhaustion (In 2019) to learn how to do this, differently.)

How you react to disappointments and deal with them can be symptomatic of your go-to emotional state.

In the majority of cases, people operate from a negative state of being, i.e. they automatically experience and expect negative things to happen, and their first response to a trigger, is a negative emotion.


Because they have experienced these things throughout their lives and their reactions and responses have become habits.

In order to be able to operate from a positive emotional state, people need to constantly train themselves how to do that. You also have to break or change these habits. Witness the development of techniques such as:

  • Stress reduction techniques and stress management tips
  • Forms of meditation
  • Implementing rituals of daily affirmations 
  • Having daily routines
  • Setting goals and going over them daily
  • Having a vision board
  • Having a coach
  • Joining like-minded groups
  • Volunteering at church or charities

… and so on.  

Because there are so many different techniques and strategies and tips for improvement, in effect, “retraining” the body/mind to be more positive, it means that being in a happy, positive state, has been lost for the majority of the population, and therefore we need to retrain how we think and feel. 

Why Disappointment Arises

Many people do not recognise the signs and symptoms of disappointment. Why? Because they zoom on by, past the subtleties of the underlying emotions attached to feeling disappointed, and operate from one, or all, of these major, underlying issues attached to disappointment:

How Disappointment Arises?
Disappointments arise due our early childhood experiences
  • They self- punish
  • They instantly feel that they are unworthy because they are
    not achieving their goals
  • They may feel not good enough, or
  • They label themselves a failure

 … and so on.

They skip all of the steps in-between:

  • Feeling impatient
  • Feeling sad
  • Feeling frustrated
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling anger or rage 

….and so on.

So, why do they zoom on by the steps in-between those emotions and go straight to major feelings of failure?

There are three main reasons:

  1. It is because they have deeply ingrained negative beliefs that they have not yet dealt with, and, which therefore affect the state of disappointment, such that it is felt deeply, instead of less, so.
  2. It is because they have not allowed themselves to feel these subtle emotions, and
  3. Because reactions and responses to stressor triggers (such as not achieving your goals), attitudes and behaviours, have become habits. These habits are “learned” behaviours. They can be “unlearned.” 

The objective here, is to be able to let go and move on from disappointment. How you do that is you have to be able to recognise when these types of emotions start to impinge on your emotional health and wellbeing. And. You then need to instigate your plan, your ritual, so that you don’t continue to spiral down into a permanent negative state of disappointment.

Disappointment and Other Negative States Defined

In Dr David Hawkin’s book titled: Power v Force, he found that up to 85% of people world-wide, were operating from a negative state, in that they were trapped “below the line”. Most people do not recognise this and hence struggle in life to achieve a modicum of success. In fact, many motivational gurus now accept that only 3-4% of people actually achieve their goals. Lack of knowledge and understanding about their states is one of the contributing factors leading to states of disappointment.

Let’s look at the diagram below titled: Gaining Control Over a Stressful State, to gain more understanding about how people operate.

Gaining Control Over a Stressful State

You can see that “below the line” are all of the negative emotions we feel. They are run by the subconscious mind and are automatic. These emotions are the first things we might feel. This is our general default position, which we learned from early childhood. 

Throughout life we experience events that send us off track and we automatically go to this default position. You no doubt have seen people who seem to be locked into these states: fearful, depressed, sad, have self-doubts, lack self-worth, feel anxious, and so on. (See The Ultimate Guide to Letting Go and Moving On  for a more detailed discussion on this topic.)

Why people become locked into these states is because they have “trained” themselves that this is their first response, or their go-to emotion, in situations of stress. If they continue to react this way, this then becomes their most preferred state, a negative state.

“Above the line” is operated by the conscious mind. It takes effort to be in a positive state. These states are not automatic because of the accumulated reactions to events over time, in which we have “trained” ourselves to react with negative emotions.

Our most powerful position is to be “above the line” because we will be in a positive state, and we will be present. When we are present and not going over and over our past, and how we could or should have done things differently, we will become more powerful. So, the steps outlined below in the ritual, are all designed to get you to move towards the line so that you can then “train” yourself to be “above the line”, as a first line of response, to any stress or negative event.

The Ritual – How to Deal With Disappointment Effectively

Rituals to Follow to Deal Disappointment
Disappointment can be dealt with via having rituals to follow.

Here are the seven suggested steps for dealing with disappointment that will help you to turn your life around.

Step 1: Recognition and awareness of the feelings of disappointment

This step is about training yourself in the language of the body. Your emotions are trying to tell your soul, your spirit, that you need to take notice of what they are saying. The message is always about what you need to do or not do. 

If you are experiencing a negative emotion that leads you to a state of disappointment, your body language is telling you that if you want to feel happier, you need to do something that will get you “above the line”.

So, as soon as you feel flat, sad, frustrated, overwhelmed, impatient etc, it means you are suppressing some decision or action you need to take.

If you continue to ignore these negative feelings that lead you to a state of disappointment, you will become stuck “below the line” in negativity, if you do not take specific action. 

So, the first step in this ritual on how to deal with disappointment is: recognition and awareness. 

Everyone has these feelings at some time. Being able to recognise and being aware of these feelings is like the “ah ha” moment when you finally get something. When you get that “ah ha” moment you will start to become more conscious and will begin your journey on the path to dealing with disappointment and other negative states more easily. 

Step 2: Be honest and allow yourself to be vulnerable

If you come from a place of denying that you have these negative feelings of disappointment, you are not being honest with yourself. This then builds up and as you try to pretend to others that you are perfect. The subconscious will then accept this as normal behaviour and every time you have these emotions your subconscious will deny that you have them. This will then lead to some kind of self-punishment on your behalf.  

It is like lying to yourself over and over and eventually something has to give. You become a liar and that becomes part of your psyche. 

To be able to let go and move on you need to be able to, firstly, be honest, then be vulnerable. What that means is that you need to be able to accept them and actually “feel” those feelings. If you feel them you can then let them go.

You need to be able to release them. How do you do that?

You objectify those feelings. Feel where they are in your body.  Exacerbate those feelings. Then breathe into that spot. As you are feeling the feelings and continuing to breathe into those feelings you will notice that the feeling/s dissipates. It leaves your body. Your thoughts will then be different, as the feelings simply melt away. You will feel different, lighter. 

This does work. It is a counselling technique for dealing with all kinds of feelings, especially feelings of disappointment.

Step 3: Accept that you have those feelings and be kind to yourself

Having dissipated those negative feelings/emotions of disappointment   you will be able to be, and feel, more positive. The next step is about acceptance and kindness.

Why this step is placed third is because if you have the feelings of disappointment trapped within your body/mind you will not be able to experience acceptance. Why? Because acceptance is a positive emotion. You have to get closer to the dividing line before you will be capable of activating more positivity in your life.

Acceptance is like saying: “Ok. I am disappointed. I have been sad, frustrated, impatient and so on. I accept that I am human. I accept these feelings I have experienced, are normal”.

Acceptance that you have these feelings opens up a new perspective. It normalises these negative feelings and opens up the opportunity to by-pass, skipping automatically, to feelings of:

  • Lack of self-worth
  • Of not being good enough, and
  • Of being a failure.

It will allow you to be kind to yourself. Feeling kindness for self also “retrains” your subconscious and will help you move “above the line” into a happier, and more positive state of being.

Step 4: Reflection and assessment of the results achieved/not achieved

Okay. So, you have recognised the feelings of disappointment and become more aware, which gives you more control over your body/mind

Then you have been honest with yourself that you do have these feelings and have allowed yourself to be vulnerable and actually feel them. This then allowed those feelings to dissipate. And then in step 3 you’ve accepted that it is part of being human to have those feelings and this will allow you to be kinder to yourself and not bypass those early warning signs and symptoms, and hence, zip on by to feeling a failure. 

All of those steps will be helping you to move out of a negative state and to be able to become more positive. 

So, once you are in a more positive state, you will be able to reflect logically, and not emotionally, on what steps you took/did not take, to achieve the results you got.

A Personal Experience

I will give you my personal example here so you can see what this step is about.

For example, I set this goal at the beginning of last year: to write one article every week.

Here is the process I use to reflect and assess on what happened and whether I have made progress.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Did I achieve this goal? Yes/No
  2. Why Not? – Contributing Factors
  3. Outcomes – what did I achieve?
  4. Assessment – weigh up the process?
  5. Lessons – what can I learn about the contributing factors?

Here is my personal account for last year on my goal of: to write one article every week.

a. Did I achieve this? No

b. Why? In my case I did not achieve this in total so I examined what went wrong.

What were the contributing factors to my not achieving that goal?

  • Some articles took longer to write as they became longer by accident when I researched and decided that I needed to incorporate more data
    • I had to deal with hiring an SEO to optimise these articles for greater Google ranking opportunities
    • I then had to learn more about that topic so that I could check om what the person was doing
    • I had to deal with other contractors who were not doing a great job and in fact, were ruining some of my work on my sites
    • I lost focus when some of my voluntary work took more time than expected
    • I occasionally procrastinated and could not find juicy topics to write about
    • There were many times of unproductivity 

c. Outcomes

  • I was able to write two articles per month
  • I gained many comments from my articles
  • I was able to re-launch one of my sites with a new format and new content
  • I was then able to focus on three sites and have left the oldest till last to update for new content

d. Assessment

Ok. I did not achieve the goal of writing one article every week. However, I did achieve those things above. There were times of trying to get the creative juices flowing, however there was always some thought process happening about what I could do. There was always some progress. 

Hmm. So, looking at it this way, I have achieved progress, but not the full-on amount that I wanted.

e. Lessons: What can I learn about those contributing factors above?

That I have made progress. I was occasionally disappointed with myself. Sometimes I was too hard on myself.
That perhaps I need to change the goal to be more manageable.
Perhaps I need to set a new or changed goal e.g. 14 articles within six months, instead of 26.
I have to accept that life happens. Learn to be kind to myself and acknowledge that I am moving forward.

Summary: So, that is a process of reflection and assessment that you might consider undertaking to see how much progress you have made instead of dismissing the entire year as a failure, and then projecting those feelings onto yourself.

Step 5: Clarify your position and recommit to a new/changed goal

From the reflection process above and examining the contributing factors and the outcomes you may have outlined, you may come up with a new goal, a lesser goal or you have decided that you alter your approach. Once you have worked out what action you need to take, you then need to clarify what your new or revised goal is, and then recommit to it. 

You then need to write that down and go over this new goal regularly.

How you recommit is that when you go over your new goal, you need to visualise that the goal has already been achieved. And then, you need to add the feelings of satisfaction or success that you have actually achieved that new goal.

Traditional goal setting techniques involve those steps of visualisation and feel the feelings of success that you have already achieved that goal. This will bring greater personal success in life.

Step 6: Be flexible enough to change course if needed

One of the key elements to achieving anything is to be open to new ways of doing things. Not being so rigid that if you do not achieve the exact same goal that you set that you call yourself a failure. You always have the option of changing your mind.

When undertaking this ritual, the objective is to help you not slip into self-doubt, guilt and continuing disappointment. You simply must allow for the possibility that you might not achieve a rigid goal and be kind to yourself and allow yourself to be more flexible. To change your mind if need be. To change your course of action.

In some cases, having gone through the reflection and assessment step you may find that this particular goal is no longer appropriate and that you do not really want to do that. You might really want to do something else. You might need to change course.

So, being flexible is one of the most notable ideals to have in your kitbag. And. Allowing for the possibility that you might need it change course. These are positive steps and need to be celebrated. 

Step 7: Forgive yourself to be able to let go and move on

This is one of my favourite things to do. Forgiveness of self for being too hard, for not being flexible, for not being kind, for being stuck in disappointment and not knowing how to deal with it effectively…. and so on. 

You may find this a useful technique. I invoke the Ho’oponopono prayer, and say it as I do my walks.

Here it is:

I love you
I am sorry
Please forgive me
I forgive you
Thank you.

Five little sentences that mean a lot and which can clear the negative energy that surrounds you, about this topic. 

Firstly, you are telling the Universe, yourself and others that you love them unconditionally.

You then say you recognise the faults and errors, and that you are sorry you have said them, or felt these things.

You then ask for forgiveness of yourself and others for any hurt you may have perpetrated, knowingly or unknowingly. 

Fourthly, you tell yourself that you acknowledge your faults and you forgive yourself and you are forgiving others for your actions. (Please note that you do not have to forget what someone has done to you.)

You then say ‘Thank you’ as you assume that these things will happen. 

Just a note about forgiveness. If you forgive someone for a wrong perpetrated on you, it does not mean that you are overlooking these actions. It is about you cutting the energetic ties that bind you to that person or situation.

These types of prayers and affirmations are all about increasing your vibration, your positive energy, helping you move “above the line” 

This exercise will help set your free. I use it daily. 

Summary: To achieve anything in life, particularly moving out of a negative state such as feeling disappointment, I found that the best way was to have a ritual that I could go through, and tick off what happened, and what I did and what I achieved. 

The objective of the seven steps dealing with disappointment is to help you move out of those extreme aspects of feeling disappointed, and helping you gain a path to being more accepting of self. 

It is about extremes. The more you “train” yourself to overcome disappointments using a process, a ritual, that can be learned, the less those feelings associated with the state of disappointment will have a hold over you.I know personally, these seven steps will help you to let go and move on.

How to Deal with Specific Disappointments

More information on specific topics of how to deal with disappointment

Deal with Specific Disappointments img-fluid

How to deal with disappointment in someone
When you place how you feel in the hands of someone other than yourself you will always be prone to disappointments. You have to take ownership of your own happiness and not relegate it to someone else. 

How to deal with disappointment in a relationship
In relationship you need to go back and clarify your boundaries and expectations. Each person in life is on their own path, their own trainline. When you find that you are constantly using the word “should” it means you are trying to tell a person how they need to live, and that is that they need to live on your trainline. When you can see that, you will become more accepting of others.

How to deal with feeling disappointed with life
If you are feeling like this you might go and examine the attitudes and expectations of your familial group. This could well be a “learned” pattern of behaviour. You can change this by focusing on the positive aspects of life more often.

What are the causes of disappointment?
There could be a number of reasons: you have “learned” this attitude in early childhood, and it has become an habitual pattern of thinking and feeling. It could be because you are not achieving your goals. It could be that your expectations are out of sync with your abilities. It could be because you have not set any goals and therefore cannot see any progress.

How to deal with disappointment in yourself?
Follow the seven steps in the ritual above, whereby you start with recognition and awareness and move right through to forgiving yourself and others for hurts perpetrated. 

How to deal with disappointments at work?
Disappointment at work could be from: not being in the right job for your skillset; receiving negative feedback in performance reviews; being overworked and underpaid; not being in control of the outcomes of your work; feeling stressed out and undervalued; little communication with management, or a lack of acknowledgement or promotion. Follow the seven-step ritual to train yourself to be able to come from a more positive approach to life. 

Where to Now

Dealing with disappointment can be achieved successfully if you follow some kind of ritual.

I personally use the techniques above because I know they work.

What will you do to deal with disappointments that you may have in life?

The key is you have to take action of some kind. 

Overall, all of your disappointments in life come from being stuck in a negative state of mind, being “below the line”.

In order to be more positive and be “above the line” you need to instigate some kind of ritual whereby you can look objectively at what you have done and see what you need to do, to alter course, or change some aspect of this course of action.

Then be kind to yourself and celebrate your little wins. 

If you have enjoyed that article please leave a comment below and share it with others.


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