Nobody wants to be disappointed.  We avoid the situation at all times.  We naturally seek pleasurable experiences over situations or events that make us feel sad.  That is a natural human trait; seek pleasure and avoid pain. As young humans, we are trained to get fed when we cry, consoled when we fall, and always seek situations that will help us feel safe.  Disappointment is not something that we like to do, but, as we all know, disappointment is a fact of life.  

This weekend, I was supposed to race in the NYC SEA Paddleboard race in New York City.  This is a 25 mile race around Manhattan to raise money for autism and the environment.  As you can imagine, training for this race took months to accomplish.  Paddling 25 miles is not something that you take lightly, unless you want a major disappointment.  I decided to take the whole family with me to New York, not only to cheer me on, but to also spend a couple of days looking for Spiderman (my son is 13 and is obsessed).  There we were, in Atlanta airport; we decided to make a 5 hour drive to Atlanta from Panama City, Florida, so that we would get a direct flight.  We try to make traveling easier for our daughter (10), who is autistic (this made the meaning of this race even more poignant for all of us).  When we arrived at the Atlanta airport, which by the way is much more confusing to navigate than I thought it would be, we were very surprised to hear that our flight was cancelled due to bad weather!  What's worse, no other flights were available for that day.  The soonest flight would get us there after the race start, which was pointless considering our mission to do the race.  

There we all stood, our race and vacation plans pulled out from under us.  However, before this even happened (we had to wait in line for about an hour to find out if we could schedule another flight) we already had contingency plans, in case we were not able to make it out.  These plans involved spending time together as a family, as well as a 25 mile solo paddle back home to compensate for the distance that I would have paddled up in New York.  

I would be lying to say that I was not disappointed.  However, when you train your cognitive processes not to stress over things that you cannot control, then you quickly skip over the disappointment.  Using a few simple tips, one can quickly move of from even a major disappointment.  

Focus on the Good Things

When your life gets depressing or difficult to handle, focus on the things that are going right.  Many sayings exist in this regard (think lemons), but you get the point.  Focusing on the good things and being grateful for what you have (left) may be a way out of your disappointment.

Do an After Action Review

When things go wrong, we typically want to learn from our mistakes so that we don't repeat them.  I immediately learned from this airplane cancellation and determined that we will always fly  within driving distance from home to the airport.  That way, if the plane gets cancelled, you simply go home and are not stranded 5 hours from home.  After Action Reviews, or AARs, help us to improve our performance moving forward.  They also help us to process the disappointment by focusing on learning from the event rather than being controlled by the disappointment.

It Can Always Be Worse

All in all, we all survived the event and were back home within 2 days.  Disappointing events, as bad as they may be, can always be worse.  People who have experienced loss of loved ones would love to be stuck in the airport with them, even if they had to argue with them on what to do next.  Resilience comes from the recognition that no matter how bad our lives seem to get, our situation could always be worse.  

 Be The Leader

When the disappointment happens, others will be looking to see how you handle it.  If you handle disappointments like a 2 year old having a temper tantrum (like many airport travelers frequently do), individuals around you will be stressed and learn from your behavior, especially if they are your kids.  Be the leader and take the disappointment in stride.

That Which Doesn't Kill You, Makes You Stronger

My personal favorite.  Related to the universal concept of not stressing over things; this is the simple concept that unless people are at risk of life or limb, then the disappointment is not a true disappointment, and should be dealt with accordingly.  In other words, suck it up and move on, you are still alive!

This week, I want you to write down one (or two) major disappointments that have happened to you in the past 6 months.  Employ the 4 tips above to the situation and see whether or not you have other ways that you deal with disappointment.  Share in the forum with others so that we can all learn from each other.

Be ready when the next disappointment comes along and see how you can deal with it from a stance of resilience

Dr. N

For a discussion of this topic, visit our forum here.  

P.S.  This week's blog picture is of the author during his 25 mile paddle in Panama City to simulate the New York City race.  Thanks to everyone who supported Dr. N on his mission to raise awareness and money for autism.