How to Overcome Disappointment and Refocus on Your Goals

Robert Kiyosaki

The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire and how you handle disappointment along the way.


Are You Feeling Disappointed?

Disappointment is an experience of feeling let down and somewhat defeated. You held high expectations that something would work out your way, but unfortunately things didn’t turn out as expected. You are now holding onto an unsatisfactory outcome and finding it difficult to deal with your unfulfilled promises and expectations.

Feeling disappointed in the short-term can actually be quite advantageous. However, wallowing in disappointment can keep you feeling stuck, can lead to doubt, despair, depression, despondency and discouragement in the long-term. This is especially true when you’ve experienced a series of disappointments over a short period of time. These disappointments are weighing heavily on your shoulders. As a result you get overrun by negative thoughts and other emotions. In fact, you might even catch yourself saying:

  • I’m just not good enough…
  • Nothing ever works out…
  • This always happens to me…

It’s very easy to get caught up in this cycle and continuously get down on yourself. However, this is never helpful, and will keep you from seeing disappointment for what it really is: A powerful emotion that will help you clarify your personal expectations and pave the way forward towards the attainment of your goals.

Feeling Disappointed


5 Key Steps for Overcoming Disappointment

Feeling disappointed is beneficial in many different ways. In fact, it’s just like any other painful emotion you experience. All emotions are simply guiding posts that alert you to what is happening in your external environment, while helping you make appropriate adjustments and decisions to improve your situation.

It’s not difficult to turn a little disappointment in your favor to help improve your circumstances. Here is a five step process you can use to do exactly that:

Step 1: Acknowledge How You Feel About Situation

Your first step is to acknowledge your personal feelings about the situation and circumstances. If you’re disappointed, then admit it openly and honestly. Hiding your disappointment will just prevent you from moving forward. Ask yourself:

What really happened here?

What should have happened?

Why am I feeling disappointed about this?

Clarifying why exactly you’re feeling disappointed about the situation will help you to get a better understanding of your thoughts and expectations. In fact, your thoughts are the key. How you initially thought about this situation and how you eventually responded to this outcome has essentially triggered your feelings of disappointment. As such, it’s important to gain some clarity about your thought process. Ask yourself:

What was I thinking at the time when things didn’t pan-out as I had anticipated?

Was I blaming myself, others or circumstances?

Was I searching for excuses?

How have these thoughts hindered me?

If you’re caught up making excuses, complaining and not taking responsibility for the situation, then you’re just ignoring the real problem.

Step 2: Questions Your Expectations

It’s now time to take a closer look at the expectations you had before these events and circumstances took place. Ask yourself:

What were my expectations about these circumstances?

What were my expectations about myself?

What were my expectations of others involved in this?

As you answer these questions you might realize that maybe your expectations weren’t quite flexible or realistic enough. Continue asking yourself:

Overall, were my expectations about all these things realistic?

Maybe they were petty or inflexible?

Maybe my expectations were too narrow-minded?

Maybe my expectations were downright selfish?

When it comes to disappointment, your expectations coming into the situation will determine how you will feel after the events have taken place. Say for instance you had no expectations at the beginning of all this. As a result, it wouldn’t matter what happened. Because you had no expectations, you have no reason to be disappointed, and consequently you can see the situation for what it is and select the best path moving forward. However, if you’re currently feeling disappointed, then it’s unlikely you took this approach, and therefore you must now ask yourself one final set of questions:

Do my expectations set me up for disappointment?

How could I potentially adjust them for next time?

Just maybe there is a silver lining here…

Your unrealistic expectations are going to prevent you from learning and growing from this experience. You must understand this before moving onto the next step.

A Process for Overcoming Disappointment

Step 3: Take Time to Learn from this Experience

Take time now to learn from this experience. Ask yourself:

What can I learn from this experience?

What can I learn about myself?

What can I learn about my perspective of the situation?

What can I learn about how I set expectations?

What can I learn from all this that will help me approach things differently in the future?

These questions will help you to see through the clouds — opening your eyes to new possibilities and perspectives. Maybe things aren’t how they initially seemed? Just maybe your disappointment is an illusion. Maybe it’s all a figment of your imagination?

When you begin approaching this situation from a space of empowerment rather than a space of disappointment, then you will be in a better position to think more clearly and intelligently about what exactly has transpired. As a result you can move forward through this disappointment with renewed confidence that you can make the most of any situation no matter what happens.

Step 4: Take Personal Inventory

You should now fully understand the situation and you should also have clarity about your expectations. It’s now time for you to take a personal inventory by asking:

What skills do I have that can help me make the most of this situation?

What knowledge do I have that I might be able to use here?

What tools do I have at my disposal that could be helpful?

What support can I potentially garner from others?

What are my strengths, and how can I make the best use of them in this situation?

Answering these questions will help remind you that you are in fact very resourceful. You have everything within yourself to take full advantage of this situation to help turn disappointment into something positive and empowering. However, to move through this process successfully you may need to fine-tune your problem solving skills as-well-as your creative thinking skills. The reason for this is that your disappointment is merely a problem that you must now solve, and you will need to think creatively and maybe even critically to move through these events successfully. Ask yourself:

What’s the problem that I must solve?

What are the facts and tangible things that I will need to work through?

How could I think creatively about this to solve this problem successfully?

Always be mindful of the difference between fact and fiction. Facts are built upon concrete evidence, and fictitious things are based on your opinions, assumptions or perspectives of the situation. These things have no concrete evidence backing them up. As such, don’t use them as a basis for your decision-making moving forward.

In order to solve this problem successfully, you will need to cultivate optimism, patience, gratitude, and enthusiasm. You will need to be adaptable and flexible in your approach, and you will need to persevere up until the moment you successfully attain your desired outcome. On top of all this, find time for laughter. Laugh at your disappointments. See the humorous side of the situation. This will help relax you, and may even stimulate your creativity moving forward.

Step 5: Modify Your Expectations and Objectives

The final step is to modify your expectations and objectives. Modifying your expectations will help you to see things more clearly and realistically. Modifying your objectives will come as a result of your adjusted expectations. Maybe you were initially reaching too high, too quickly. A modified objective will provide you with a realistic target you can work towards. Then once you hit that target you can raise the bar higher the next time around.


What to do in the Moment of Disappointment

It’s difficult to get through life without feeling disappointed at one time or another. You are human, and you will have expectations about how things should be. Expectations are great because they help you to look forward in anticipation. In fact, expectations can keep you focused and motivated. Moreover, expectations are critical when it comes to goal setting.

When you set goals you will have expectations of the types of outcomes you would like to achieve. These outcomes will of course not always come to fruition as expected, and as a result you will need to deal with the initial disappointment. However, there are certain things you can immediately do that will help you work through this disappointment in a more effective way:

Calm Yourself Down

Okay, you’re feeling incredibly disappointed. Things didn’t pan out as you had expected. As a result, it’s easy to allow this disappointment to completely overwhelm your thought process. However, if you allow this to happen, then you can’t work through this problem successfully to overcome this disappointment in the long-run.

Your first step is to calm yourself down. You can do this by focusing on the present moment. You can also step away from the situation to clear your thoughts. Alternatively you can also take a nap to allow time to help separate yourself from what just happened. You can also get a massage, step into a steam room or sauna. All of these things will help you to calm down and clear your mind. Likewise this will allow you to begin thinking about things somewhat differently, which can potentially trigger new insights and perspectives that will help you to modify things moving forward.

Distract Yourself

If calming your mind doesn’t seem to be working, then take some time to temporarily distract yourself from this disappointment by listening to music, but watching a movie, or through reading a book. These distractions will help you to settle down. Then when you’re ready, you can get back to the situation at hand with more energy and a fresh perspective. There is never any point in dealing with something if your mind loses itself by overly obsessing about the disappointment. That by itself is a clear indication that a temporary distraction is required.

Transform Your Physiology

The moment disappointment hits you, your physiology will likely change. Think for a moment about a time you were really excited about something. How did you move your body during those moments? How were you standing? Now think about a time when you were incredibly disappointed about something. I bet your body was moving somewhat differently. The difference here is very important because you will never get into a resourceful state that will help you solve potential problems if your physiology remains in a state of disappointment. You must instead immediately adjust your physiology in empowering ways that will help serve you moving forward.

To make the necessary adjustments, think about how you would use your body when excited and/or confident. Now take the time to make the necessary adjustments in your physiology to get into this excited/confident state. Within this state you will begin to think and act differently — helping you to make better decisions moving forward.

Disappointment is Clouded in Fog

Keep in mind that the feeling of disappointment might not be what you think it is. Disappointment can often result from a misunderstanding, from confusion, and is often based on your personal expectations and interpretations of the situation. Maybe you really have nothing to be disappointed about. All you need to do is shift your perspective of the situation and all of a sudden what seemed unfortunate, may in fact turn into your greatest opportunity.

Transform Your Perspective

How you perceive things must encourage you to move forward with confidence. It must help you to incorporate a solution-focused mindset that will promote “out of the box” thinking.

What if instead of feeling disappointed you shifted your perspective in the following three ways:

There’s always a silver lining… What about this situation gets me excited?

Everything happens for a reason… Why is it important that I experience this disappointment?

This could have been much worse… What specifically about this am I grateful for?

These three shifts in perspective provide you with a new path moving forward that will help you to think more clearly and intelligently about the situation. They will also prevent you from being bogged down by disappointment.

Disappointment is Only Temporary

It’s absolutely critical that in the moment of disappointment you understand that disappointment is only temporary. You did something, it didn’t work out, and now you must learn from this experience and adjust your course of action moving forward. Yes, you might very well have had many disappointments along your journey. However, all of them provide you with valuable lessons you can use to help improve your chances of success the next time around.

Don’t Admit Your Disappointment

Don’t ever admit that you’re disappointed…

This seems to contradict the fact that it’s important to admit how you feel about the situation in order to move through the process of overcoming disappointment. This is of course true, however admitting the reality of your situation can at times be unhelpful if you do nothing about it. Focusing on what you’ve lost and what you’ve failed to do or achieve, will only deflate your confidence, and will prevent you from moving forward.

Therefore if you find that you are one of those people who easily become overwhelmed by disappointment, then avoid admitting the fact that you’re disappointed at all costs, and instead shift your perspective about the situation to help move yourself forward in more productive ways.

Don’t Demand Perfection from Yourself

The reality is that no matter how hard you try, you will never be perfect. You’re human and perfection is not a part of your nature. Accept the fact that perfection is not attainable and focus instead on making progressive improvement over time. However, even with improvement, you will often take two steps forward and one step back. And that’s perfectly okay. You need to take that one step back to gain a clearer perspective and understanding of the situation moving forward. You need to learn from that experience. Therefore, don’t resist. Just go with the flow and strive for improvement over perfection.

Don’t Attempt to Control the Outcome

When it comes to sudden disappointment, sometimes the more you try and control the outcome or the circumstances within that moment, the more frustration and disappointment you will feel. There is no point trying to control things that are out of your control. It’s like trying to catch the wind with your bare hands. It’s simply impossible. Instead, give up the desire to control external events, and instead utilize the other strategies discussed within this section to help you work through your moment of disappointment successfully.

Strategies for Overcoming Disappointment


What to do After a Disappointment

What you do moments after a disappointment are absolutely critical. How you respond to disappointment will not only affect your current situation, but will also foretell how you are likely to approach future disappointments as you continue to work towards your desired outcomes.

Here are some suggestions to help you handle disappointment effectively and intelligently:

Focus on the War, Not the Battles

Don’t get lost in being short-sighted. Thinking short-term and only seeing the disappointment in the moment will prevent you from seeing the bigger picture and the possibilities that may exist moving forward.

Your disappointment is only one battle that has temporarily sidetracked you. However, you’re still fighting the war, and there are many battles still yet to come. You will win some of these battles, and you will lose many others. No matter what happens, the battles are only part of the bigger picture. Winning the war is what counts in the end. Focus on winning the war, not the individual battles.

Look for Potential Opportunities

The moment disappointment strikes, is the moment you must become very aware and receptive to the world around you, because at that very moment you might find that the world is suddenly different. What you thought was reality, might not be reality any more. What you thought was a sure thing, might not be so sure any more. However, this isn’t a bad thing, because the moment one door closes a window opens. However, if you’re just staring at that closed door, you won’t see the open window (your opportunity).

Sometimes the open window will be out of sight, however it won’t be out of mind. You need to look for the signs and for the evidence that an opportunity exists. Get a feel for where the breeze is coming from. This will help you adjust your course of action accordingly. As long as you stay positive and receptive, then you will eventually find a way out of your disappointing situation.

Ask Questions to Gain Clarity

After a disappointment, take some time to ask yourself some thought-provoking questions that will help you to get a better understanding of the situation:

Was I clear about what I wanted?

Why was I attached to this outcome?

What did I think was going to happen?

Was I realistic about my expectations?

How will I benefit from letting this go?

Will this disappointment really matter in six months time?

Could I have done something differently?

What resources could assist me to move through this successfully?

How can I best utilize these resources?

These questions will help to lay down a path that will assist you to move forward with greater clarity and confidence. They will also hopefully help you to stay focused on the right things and allow you to build the groundwork for success in the not too distant future.

Ideas for Getting Over Disappointment

Account for Murphy’s Law

Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible time, all at once, when you least expect it. That is in essence what Murphy’s Law is about.

One way to minimize future disappointments is to account for Murphy’s Law. This requires you to think about all the things that could potentially go wrong moving forward, and come up with appropriate contingency plans that will help you to reduce the risk of disappointment, mistakes and potential failure. This of course isn’t a full-proof strategy, however it can certainly help you to make better decisions when you’re confronted with seemingly unexpected setbacks.

In the end, it’s not what happens to you that matters, but rather how you respond to the disappointments that life throws your way today, that will make all the difference tomorrow.


Time to Assimilate these Concepts

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Six Steps for Getting Over Disappointment


Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam’s story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.