The Challenge for Day 26
The challenge for today is to write about “Disappointment”, that sadness you feel when your expectations are dashed by reality.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? It could be something outside your control, like a sudden snowfall leaving you housebound instead of at the concert you spent all year looking forward to. Or maybe a friend lets you down by not answering your calls when she knows you need a shoulder to cry on. Perhaps you disappoint yourself by messing up a work project because you left it till the last minute. Again.
And then it hits you, that sinking feeling in your stomach. The most important thing is to acknowledge what your body is telling you. Sometimes people shy away from this, pretending it doesn’t matter. I didn’t even want that promotion anyway. But that’s counter-productive. It just leaves you in denial, confused and more likely to fall victim to apathy. You give up on your hopes and dreams, you feel it’s just not worth the effort. Or bury yourself in negativity, figuring that you’d prefer the feeling of relief you get when the bad things don’t happen. Living in a constant state of fear. I’ve certainly been guilty of that in the past.
As I mentioned at the start, disappointment is the sadness we feel when our expectations clash with reality. Does that mean we should forget about expectations? Definitely not, they are part of what makes us human. It’s just that we need to understand them in the context of reality. Life is happening all around us and most of it operates outside of our control. It has always been the same, as long as humans have walked the Earth.
What must it have been like for the ancient cave dwellers or early hunter-gatherers? They experienced disappointments too. Perhaps they lost sight of a deer they were hunting or found the seashells had already been scavenged by birds. But they faced the new reality by readjusting, adapting and changing their expectations. They couldn’t just sit there feeling sorry for themselves. They took the disappointment and harnessed it as a learning tool for the future.
Are expectations, hopes and dreams the same thing? No, they are each distinct, though often overlapping.
Dreams are our imaginings, what we would love to happen in an ideal world. Say your dream is to open your own florist’s shop, somewhere to indulge your passions of nature and creativity. You research how to go about it, find a suitable business model and decide to make a practical start. So out come the gloves, the pots, the tulip bulbs and a lot of enthusiasm.
Expectations are the things we feel should happen. Of course, they have to be realistic. If you expect every single flower to bloom, then you are likely to be disappointed straight away. Nature doesn’t work like that. What would be reasonable? Say 75%. In most cases, this would work out well for you. But what if you are unlucky and all the bulbs happen to be diseased? Yes, of course you will feel disappointed, especially since you had tried so hard to do everything right. So how do you react to an outcome different to the one you expected?
Hope is about courage. You can choose to give up on your project, feeling that the world is out to get you. Or you can use the disappointment to face a new reality. Maybe you were just unlucky on this occasion? Or perhaps you didn’t source the bulbs properly, focusing instead on buying the cheapest product. The feeling of disappointment is natural, but it’s your choice what to do with it. Give up, or hope for a better outcome if you change your approach.
I love this quote by Brad Warner, a Zen master, because I think it explains the concept of disappointment succinctly.
“But you know that disappointment is just the action of your brain readjusting itself to reality after discovering things are not the way you thought they were.”
Day 26 of My 500 Words 31 Day Challenge, hosted by Jeff Goins: Disappointment
The photograph is my own, shot in Cork.