My heart sank as I looked into my youngest son’s eyes. Rock was 5 at the time and had planned a spectacular performance. With expectation in his heart, he drew a blueprint for an elaborate theatre. As if looking for buried treasure, he went hunting in the alley and hauled in some discarded grocery boxes he had found.

Setting the boxes up in the backroom, he fashioned together props: chairs, stuffed animals, and signs. He designed a program for the event and his entrepreneurial skills led him to make homemade cookies to sell during his intermission.  With music playing in the background, he was stage ready.

An Audience of One

There was only one problem – despite his elaborate planning and hard work, one by one his siblings had all left for the day. Rock was performing for an audience of one; two if you count our dog Samson.

He looked at me with those piercing dark eyes, his shoulders drooped down in disappointment and with a sigh as deep as the Grand Canyon he said,

“Mommy, what do you do when things don’t work out the way you thought they would?”

Isn’t that the million dollar question?  None of us are invulnerable to disappointments. They show up unwelcomed in our lives and manifest themselves in different forms and in varying degrees. They cause us to feel frustrated, defeated, and sometimes even pain.

Since disappointments are a given in life and none of us will escape them, how can we find an answer to Rock’s question:

What do YOU do when things don’t work out the way you thought they would?

Finding Acceptance

There is only one word that answers that question: acceptance. I wish it was that simple and that I could be like Nike and say:

  • Just do it
  • Suck it up Buttercup
  • Time to go on

However, the process to get to acceptance can sometimes be more difficult than “Just do it.”  The cliché, “Easier said than done” couldn’t be truer than when dealing with life’s disappointments.

That being said, there is one simple adjustment you can make to your thinking that will greatly reduce the disappointments your experience. That game-changer is a two-step process: release your expectations and develop a possibility mindset.

Release Your Expectations

Releasing your expectations is one of the BIGGEST difference makers you could ever possibly do for yourself.  When you let expectations rule your life, you are bound to encounter disappointments because expectations in and of themselves can set you up for them.

If you set low expectations, you will be rewarded for trivial things and you will not be challenged nor will you experience hard-earned achievement.

If you set impossible expectations, you will constantly be battling frustration and doubting your every move; lacking confidence and feeling like a failure.

The problem with expectations is that we bank on them and give them too much power over our lives.

So what’s the solution? Think…possibility.

Develop a Possibility Mindset

If you learn to let go of your expectations and see your circumstances through the lens of possibility and discovery, a whole new world opens up to you leaving you no longer at the mercy of your expectations.

This was an extremely difficult concept for me to embrace. I thought I would lose a competitive edge if I altered my expectations. Those closest to me know that I’m an extremely driven person who is highly task-oriented. Measurement and bottom line results drive me. Give me something to cross off my extensive to-do list and I feel a huge sense of achievement.

What I learned literally changed my life. I accomplish so much more from a possibility vantage point than from an expectation mindset. I am much more capable and confident when I explore possibilities.

I still have a heart of expectancy and set the bar on my goals and performance pretty high but I’m no longer restrained by my measurement mindset.

“If you embrace possibility thinking, your dreams will go from molehills to mountain size, and because you believe in possibilities, you put yourself in position to achieve them.” – John Maxwell

Operating from a possibility mindset greatly reduces disappointments; however, the truth remains that we will all still face situations that cause us to be disappointed.

Having a strategic plan in place to deal with setbacks, allows you to tap into your inner resources, tackle the disappointments, and bounce back quicker from them.

3 Strategies to Deal with Disappointments

1. Identify the Root of the Disappointment

Identifying the root cause of the disappointment is very helpful when trying to get to a place of acceptance. Look to see what emotions you are feeling and the root of what’s triggering the feelings. For example, if you thought you were getting a promotion and it didn’t happen, what might be at the root of the letdown?

  • Was it your hard work?
  • Was it a need for recognition?
  • What were your expectations?

Acquiring self-knowledge will help you to face the answers to these questions and learn how to address the root of what is causing you to be disappointed.

2. Time Out

The purpose of taking time out is to help you process what has happened so that you can move forward. Give yourself the space to feel the emotions that the disappointment caused. Resist the urge to overthink; allow yourself to feel so that you can recover.

Connecting to sensitivity allows you to read your emotional pulse and enhances your emotional intelligence.

Don’t fall into the false belief that expressing your emotions shows weakness. Everyone experiences emotions; the last thing you want to do is inhibit them. Research shows that people who suppress emotions take longer to recover from setbacks. Your reflection time shortens the duration and intensity of the disappointment.

3. Reframe

Be still long enough to gain perspective on the situation; always seeking insights and the opportunity to grow. Look for the lesson in the disappointment as if you were searching for buried treasure. Ask yourself:

  • How CAN I reframe the situation?
  • What are some things about the disappointment that I can view from a different angle?
  • What opportunities are afforded to me by this experience?

Disappointments are always opportunities for growth; look to see who you can become as a result of having gone through the disappointment.

Rock’s Latest Performance

Rock is no longer a 5-year-old child creating a makeshift stage for a backroom performance. He’s 19 and a college student attending school in Texas.  I had to make a call to him last Saturday that neither one of us was prepared for. His beloved dog Valor was in kidney failure and only had a few days to live. This was Rock’s baby, his loyal best friend who cheered him up through countless disappointments and loved him unconditionally.

I could see his piercing eyes through the silence over the phone. I knew his shoulders were drooped down and I felt his pain just as I had when he was 5 and performing for an audience of one. I also knew I was helpless to shield him from this loss.

He responded decisively. He flew home from Texas and spent the whole next day with Valor. He took pictures of them together and choreographed a tribute performance for her.

The next evening at the Vet’s office, Rock held Valor tightly in his arms till the very end. When she fell “asleep”, he politely asked the Vet for her body and we brought her home. With determination and resolve, Rock began digging through tough rock-like gravel and hard soil in the backyard, making a grave to bury his baby girl in the very place she loved to lie in and soak up the Arizona sun.

After 3 long hours of digging in the cold and darkness, he then rummaged through the house and found Val’s favorite toys, a shirt of his that had his scent, and a bone.  He wrote her a long letter and placed all these things in the box then meticulously covered the ground back up.

He proceeded to go into his room and didn’t come out until the next evening. He wouldn’t eat nor did he respond to friend’s texts, snaps or calls. When he finally came out of his room, he went in the backyard and found a rock. With a sharpie, he wrote Valor’s name on this homemade headstone.

He posted and dedicated the video of a final performance for her; she was his audience of one.

He bid farewell to his rescue puppy realizing that he gave her 4 more years than had he not saved her. He didn’t have to ask me,

“Mommy, what do you do when things don’t work out the way you thought they would?”

He found his way to acceptance performing for an audience of one.

“There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Rita Hudgens
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