Episode 61: How to Manage Disappointment

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At work and in life, dealing with disappointment is inevitable. It’s how we learn to cope with disappointment that will build our resilience and help us create what’s next. In this episode I’ll talk about: 

  • Why we often avoid taking risks to avoid disappointment
  • How underachieving keeps us safe but keeps us in  disappointment
  • How to rethink when others disappoint us 

Perfectionism is usually an enormous fear of criticism that stops movement. They want to make sure they control all outcomes and viewpoints because of their fear of disapproval. So they keep perfecting and therefore never releasing or completing the project. There’s no win. Learning. Or celebration. It’s another way of staying safe and avoiding disappointment. 

Mentioned on the Show:

Get on the list Create Your Career Strategy Group Coaching Program

4 Ways to Fight Ageism in Your Job Search, FastCompany.com

Follow @jillGriffinOffical on Instagram for daily inspiration. 

Visit JillGriffinCoaching.com for more details on my private and group Coaching programs. 

Read the Transcript
Hey friends, welcome to the Career Refresh podcast. I am your host, Jill Griffin

I hope you are all having a great week. I know that I am. Last week my latest article on how to fight ageism during the interviewing process was published by Fast Company. 

Again, you have all been so kind and supportive of my work and I appreciate you so much. 

And, I gotta tell you, staying focused, creating content, and then seeing your work out there in the work does not get old for me. I want to continue to find ways to help people find jobs, keep jobs, feel better at their jobs, and exceed their own expectations at their jobs. I feel really fortunate that I get to do this work. So thank you for showing up. I’ll put the link to the article in the show notes.  

Today I want to talk about disappointment. Yes, I had a win last week, but like many of you I am human and I need to consciously work through disappointments. 

Recently I was speaking to a client and they were expressing that back on previous professional experiences that ended in disappointment they felt stuck in moving forwards. If you are wondering how others work through disappointment it’s typically because they evaluate what happened, process it, and move on. If you are someone who struggles to release the disappointment, that’s very common and we often just need a little help… 

Whether we are disappointed because an opportunity didn’t take shape, or by someone’s actions or inaction, or even disappointed in ourselves because of an action or inaction I’d offer we can manage our disappointment with managing our mind. 

First is to manage our expectations. As they say, expectations are future resentments. Some disappointments we can process quickly and they don’t linger. Others require more time to process. What’s confusing is that once we have desired expectations, there are no experiences that are free of disappointment. When we expect results or performance outside of what we control, which is only thoughts and actions, we set ourselves up for disappointment. 

Recently I was disappointed in a business partner’s behavior. 

In the processing of my disappointment, I had to get clear on my thoughts and expectations I had around the person and the exchange of ideas and services. 

What I finally realized was that I was figuratively going to the hardware store for milk.

I hoped that by continuing the dialogue and using the services, that it was going to turn out differently. 

Repeatedly my expectations were not met. When I got really clear, they actually never promised me what I was expecting. 

Meaning, it wasn’t in writing. 

I just had the assumption that because I had seen them deliver this level of service and care to their other partners that it was safe to assume that I would receive the same service,  that I would receive the same in exchange for the same fee I was paying. 

But I didn’t. 

In the end, I felt like I had a bad high school boyfriend. Like I kept chasing something that I really wanted that was never promised. It felt icky. 
And I wanted to pull back. Hide. Protect myself. I didn’t want to have this emotional or financial risk again. 
Riffing off something Adam Grant recently… “Your Disappointment says their actions failed to meet your standards. It doesn’t mean they failed to stand by their principles”


Some people avoid disappointment by staying low. Not reaching. Not striving, not achieving. It’s like setting the bar so low that you couldn’t trip on it so you couldn’t really fail. And if you don’t fail, you dont have to feel bad about yourself right? 

Others are so afraid of rejection or humiliation, that they keep expectations low, they fear of trying something new because they could daily, or they want to avoid the gut-wrenching blow of experiencing imposter syndrome, that they too, stay small. They don’t stretch or achieve which keeps them safe from disappointment. But they have no win or learning as a result. They stay stuck.

Others set the bar too high, and they rationalize their perfectionism. Perfectionism is usually an enormous fear of criticism that stops movement. They want to make sure they control all outcomes and viewpoints because of their fear of disapproval. So they keep perfecting and therefore never releasing or completing the project. There’s no win. Learning. Or celebration. It’s another way of staying safe and avoiding disappointment. 

So what do we do? Here are a few tips that I and my clients have found helpful. 

1. Check your expectations. You have to separate story from fact. Often our thoughts are counterfactual and then we take action from them. Keeping to the facts, or in my case, the contract will help me set right sized expectations. I still may be disappointed but I can move forward and find a solution from the facts. I am probably not going to find resolution from looking at my story.  

2. Do an evaluation. Evaluating what happened, what worked, what didnt, how we’d redirect our energy in the future is helpful. There’s a funny thing that happens when we get clear on what worked and what didn’t. I am taking pen to paper or using a notes app. The clarity helps your brain see it and learn it quickly. The next time the situation presents itself, you have a solid chance to quickly implement what you’ve learned – it’s now like part of your nature and you get to think and behave differently. I mean how many times have I said, we’ll, I never do that again, and I don’t. 

3. Catch the thought spiral. If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you know that I continually encourage you to do daily thought work. This is taking a few minutes every day to empty the thoughts that are rattling around your mind on paper, and then ask yourself if those thoughts are serving you. If they are wonderful because those thoughts will create your results. If the thoughts aren’t serving you, you need to find different thoughts and practice them. Or work with a coach you specialize in mindset and beliefs so you can shatter the shitty. 

4. Be gentle and kind with yourself. Brene Brown says “If we want to be able to move through the difficult disappointments, the hurt feelings, and the heartbreaks that are inevitable in a fully lived life, we can’t equate defeat with being unworthy of love, belonging, and joy. If we do, we’ll never show up and try again.” Think of a child, a person, or a pet that you absolutely love and would do anything for…just for today treat yourself with the same level of kindness and grace. And then try it again tomorrow.

Ok, folks, let me know how you are working through disappointments in your life.  

Before I go, who’s helping you build a successful career? Do you have a  plan? 

I’d be honored to help you. Check out the details in the show notes where you can schedule an appointment to see if my private or group coaching is right for you. 

Alright, my friends. I appreciate you. Thanks for joining me this week. Until next time.

Visit JillGriffinCoaching.com for free content and strategies to refresh your career.