Meet our expert: Carole Ann Rice is a business and life coach, bestselling author and columnist. www.realcoachingco.com
We all have times when life doesn’t go to plan and we end up not getting what we were hoping for. Whether it’s a retirement package that falls through, a dream of living abroad that’s no longer possible or a health scare that sets you back, disappointment can be tough to take. But not getting the life you’d imagined doesn’t have to mean abandoning your dreams and ambitions. We asked the experts how to come to terms with disappointment and even turn it into an exciting Plan B.
Make time for you
Everyone reacts in a different way to disappointment, but mostly it makes us feel hurt, angry or upset. “The most important thing is to accept you’re hurt,” says life coach Carole Ann Rice. “Don’t try and push your pain away because this only means the emotions come back another day.
Factor some time into your schedule to get over your disappointment. This might mean politely saying no to family get-togethers for a while, so you don’t have to face people asking questions, or having a bit of time by yourself to think things through.
“You may also want to take time for a good cry. If you feel like tears are coming when you’re out and don’t want to cry in public, tell yourself when it gets to say 6 o’clock, you’ll go somewhere private and let it all out. Or say that you’re going to give yourself just 20 minutes to cry in the loo – this stops you worrying you’ll never stop.”
Put it into words
Feelings of disappointment can build up to become overwhelming, but articulating those thoughts can be really helpful. “Try talking things out with a friend,” says Carole. “Explain you don’t expect them to give any answers – you just need to offload how you’re feeling.”
Alternatively, get a notebook and write down how you feel. Don’t be scared to use emotive language and swear if you want to. Keep this notebook by your bed, in case the feelings come back in the night.
“Once you’ve done this, say to yourself ‘I’m experiencing a bad time’, rather than saying, ‘I’m sad’,” says Carole. “This gives you the chance to accept that your feelings will pass. Think back to other times in your life when things haven’t gone to plan, and how you’ve come through it or realised it was actually the best thing to happen.”
Keep a blessings book
“Keeping a book where you note everything you’re grateful for is a great way of recognising what you have, so you don’t feel like your life is in deficit because you didn’t get this thing you wanted,” says Carole. Appreciate the here and now by writing down three things that you’ve loved about each day, whether it was having coffee with a friend, putting your feet up or enjoying your favourite TV show.
“In this book, or somewhere separate, also start to write down how you can turn your problems into a solution,” says Carole.
See if you can think of five to ten practical new things you want to do. So, for example, you might not be able to move abroad, but can you redecorate your house instead? Or if you’ve been made redundant, can you set up that business you’ve always thought about? Give yourself something definite to focus on.
See it from the other side
Sometimes disappointment can be partly or entirely caused by someone else. Perhaps it was a colleague who scuppered your retirement plans, a daughter who doesn’t want children, so you won’t have the life with grandchildren you imagined, or a partner’s illness that puts your dream of moving abroad on hold.
If it feels painful to even speak to the other person about this, Carole recommends this simple coaching tool:
- Get two seats facing opposite each other. You sit in one and talk to the other seat – you could put a picture of the person you’re cross with on the chair. Then say to them, ‘I’m very upset with you because you stopped me having the life I wanted’ or ‘I wanted to be a grandma’, for example.
- When you feel like you’ve said it all, breathe a few times and go sit in the other chair. You are then that person and you say what you think their side of the story is. Really get into the role. Then breathe again, go back to your original seat and see how it feels now. You might find your perspective has changed.
For more advice, grab the latest issue of Yours magazine, which is out every fornight.