“Disappointment is just the chance to start once more, this time all the more insightfully.” – Henry Ford

Has someone ever told you, “I’m disappointed in you?” It’s a devastating blow. Disappointment is worse than anger or frustration. Disappointment means your character has been reduced in someone’s eyes. You missed the mark. You failed. You lost your way. You compromised your values.

Has someone ever disappointed you? How do you feel when that happens? When it’s happened to me, I don’t feel angry or hurtful. I feel more sad. Maybe I had high expectations for someone, and he or she didn’t hit the mark. Or I expected to hit my goals and didn’t quite get there. Now, I’m disappointed in myself or the outcome.

Disappointment ultimately stems from expectations. We set a goal for ourselves or someone else, and the ultimate reality doesn’t match our vision of the outcome. It’s the difference between hope and truth. Dreams and reality. Fiction and fact. We are disappointed when we don’t get what we want or think we deserve. When we set an expectation or have an idea of an outcome, our mind develops that as a picture. We think in pictures. But when we describe the expectation to someone out loud, it is communicated in words. And we all know a picture is worth a thousand words. When we become disappointed in the outcome, it’s because the actual outcome didn’t match the picture in our mind after we tried to describe it in words as a to-do list.

We all want to believe we are great leaders and communicators and can get the best out of people. We set our expectations high and root for them to succeed. The question is: Are we being realistic with our expectations? Are we clear and concise when presenting expectations to others and ourselves? Are we describing the picture in our mind with the best words?

Our first step in managing disappointment is to start with realistic and clear expectations. We won’t lose 25 pounds in one week, we won’t change our relationship with our spouse in one day, and we won’t 10x our salary in one month. Those are drastic examples, but you get the idea. We have to start with clear, manageable, and realistic expectations. And, if those expectations are for others, we must ensure our picture of the outcome matches what we describe in our words.

Next, are we checking progress frequently and providing feedback? “Frequently” is a relative term determined by the desired outcome. If it is a long-term goal, maybe the progress is checked monthly or quarterly. Shorter tasks can be checked hourly or daily. The point is the progress needs to be verified and adjustments made if the outcome isn’t on track. Ask questions during this progress check-in. Is the ultimate goal still clear? Is there anything you or I need to continue the task? Are you confident you can complete the endeavor by the set date? These questions may create adjustments or corrections to course-correct toward the desired outcome.

Now, what happens when you face disappointment? How do you continue to move forward in a positive direction?

First, understand that disappointment is normal but should be fleeting. Don’t let it weigh you down for too long. Give yourself a set amount of time to feel the feelings, and then let it go. The set time can be ten minutes or ten days, but don’t let it last too long.

Next, make a list of the lessons learned from the experience. Ask yourself a few questions. What was my part in the outcome? Why did it feel so frustrating? Is there a pattern, or was it a one-time issue? If it’s a pattern, how do I change it? Write these down, then write down the potential solutions or adjustments to avoid these failures in the future.

Third, make an alternative plan. Now that you’ve adjusted to the fact that the outcome didn’t meet the expectations and written down what went wrong, set the plan to move forward. Sometimes, minor adjustments are needed to the original plan. Other times, you might need to scrap the original plan entirely and start fresh. Either way, the best thing to do is plan and then take action. Don’t hesitate.

Finally, choose to be positive. Avoid the blame game and focus on how to make the opportunity a positive experience. Now is not the moment to point fingers and assign blame to someone. Rise above blame and choose positivity instead. YOU can decide if this moment is an utter failure or a complete success. The success may not mean the outcome was achieved, but it can be a success in what NOT to do next time. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Every outcome can be a success based on how you frame the experience.

Disappointment happens. It is inevitable in life. Whether we disappoint ourselves or become disappointed by others, our success and happiness are determined by how we deal with life’s disappointments. Choose today to turn any disappointing situation into a positive outcome.