Life is full of disappointment. Whether it’s over a promotion that never came to be or a relationship that failed to come to fruition, feeling disappointed is a natural part of life. The good news is that mindfulness meditation can help not only with dealing with these feelings of disappointment but can also help you to use the lessons of disappointment to direct you towards further growth.
Why We Feel Disappointed
There are three main reasons why we may feel disappointed, and any one of these can occur in everyday life:
1. You Don’t Get What You Want
Perhaps you were hoping for more time with your family during a long vacation or for an exciting new opportunity to present itself, maybe those things never happened or, when they did, they weren’t what you had expected. Feelings of anger, sadness, dejection, and even emptiness can begin to well up as you are faced with your new reality. You may even begin to question whether you’ve made a mistake in the choices that led up to your disappointing moment.
It’s an unstated fact that the more you build up expectations, the more you are setting yourself up for disappointment. It’s like building a staircase on a flat plain: The higher you ascend into the land of fantasy, the further you have to fall when you come back down to Earth!
No matter what the cause of the disappointment is, meditation can help you to acknowledge your feelings and increase your awareness of how your own expectations are contributing to the sensation of disappointment. Then, by managing your expectations through meditation, you can prevent future disappointments from affecting you as deeply.
To make the ups and downs of life more manageable, mindfulness meditation can help you to observe and acknowledge your expectations without judging them.
Acknowledging without Judging
Once you start to notice how quickly you create expectations of yourself and others, it can be tempting to feel guilty or lay blame on yourself for creating these expectations in the first place or for not fulfilling them completely (however realistic or unrealistic they may be). That is where mindfulness comes in. This approach to meditation challenges us to observe our feelings without judging or evaluating them. It’s a matter of simply sitting with your thoughts, being aware of your feelings, acknowledging them, and letting them go.
By acknowledging your expectations and your disappointments without judging them, you create a space in which you can express compassion for yourself and others. That is key for being able to move on from the disappointment.
2. You Get What You Want
This might seem counterintuitive, but many of us feel disappointed when we do get what we want! Perhaps you got the promotion you were working so hard for. Maybe you finally saved up enough to buy your own house, or your new budding relationship is really beginning to grow into an exciting new promise.
Once the thrill of success starts to fade and you settle into your new reality, you can quickly find yourself wanting bigger, better, and more, and feelings of dissatisfaction resurface. There’s another (down)side to having achieved your goal as well: Now that you have what you want (a child, relationship, money, good health, etc.), there might also be an element of fear that you’ll lose it again. Meditation can help you to both appreciate what you have and enjoy it in the now—regardless of what happens tomorrow.
Learning to Appreciate the Present
Try meditating on the following to help you find peace with your present circumstances and enjoy them today:
- What do you appreciate about your current situation?
- What aspects of your life today are dreams and goals from the past that have now been fulfilled?
- What recent achievements are you proud of?
- Which disappointments and failures in the past helped you to get to where you are today?
Then sit with your feelings about the present, observing them without judging them, and realizing that both success and failure are only temporary.
3. You Don’t Know What You Want
This is perhaps the hardest of the three because the way forward isn’t so clear. Not knowing what you want makes every decision difficult—because no matter what you choose, you will have to miss out on the alternatives!
This new idea for work or that one, this exciting opportunity or that one, this sandwich or that wrap. Whichever way you look at it, every “yes” is at the same time a “no” and every “no” is also a “yes” to something else. Inevitably, every decision will involve risk, loss, and gain.
Learning through Decision-Making
To overcome anxiety and find peace in the ambiguities, take every decision as a learning experience. Saying “no” to your favorite coffee could mean discovering a new beverage that you love. Saying “yes” to an opportunity that fails could provide valuable lessons that lead to future success.
Using mindfulness, you can observe the decisions that turn out well and those that turn out badly without criticizing yourself or casting blame. Accept the outcomes and identify the lessons you learned in the process. A spectacular failure might even turn into a funny story one day!
Facing the Future with Courage
So, if things didn’t go as planned and an opportunity has been lost, don’t lose heart! Remain calm, learn the lesson, and try again. By escaping from the prison of negative thinking and increasing your awareness through meditation, you will be much better equipped for the disappointments (and successes) to come.