Dealing with Disappointments: Why do we struggle?

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It is safe to say that there is nobody that has not faced disappointments in their lives, careers or business. Often, this takes the form of lost opportunities, failures or results not being as expected. The aftermath of the disappointment starts with an emotional burst of hurt, anger, resentment or despair. Our confidence dissipates, our fears are amplified and the stress starts to build up. This is also the time to slow down, take a step back and look at the situation with fresh eyes.

Before we can handle the feelings that arise from a disappointment, it is necessary to understand why they affect us so much. The fact of the matter is that all outcomes, no matter how big or important, can have only two possibilities. Like a binary pair, they can either be a zero or a one. In other words, the outcome could be a yes or a no. Each have exactly the same 50-50 probability of occurring. So, you could either land the job or not, she could either say yes or no, the customer could either buy or not. Until the decision is made, there is an equal chance of either outcome.

However, when it comes to our expectations of the outcome, this rule scarcely applies. In our minds, we assign a disproportionately high percentage in favor of one outcome over the other. We are always 99% sure that we will get the job offer, we are 90% confident of getting high grades and so on. What we fail to realize is that despite our expectation being in the high 90’s, the statistical probability remains at 50% either way.

When the outcome is revealed, if it is in our favor, we feel elated and vindicated. Our confidence shoots up and we are thrilled. However, if the outcome is not in our favor, we plummet down from the 99% confidence and happiness level to 0% leaving us floundering and unable to come to terms with the new reality. Our reaction? Hurt, Anger, Denial, Despair and loss of confidence. In short, our construct of reality has just come face to face with the actual reality.

The solution then seems to be clear. Instead of raising our expectations to an unnaturally high level, we should always realize that there could only be two outcomes and each of them have exactly the same probability of happening. Further, we need to realize that our desires are not our goals. While goals are linked to outcomes, our desires are the essence of who we want to be and no matter what the outcome may be, there are always different routes that we can take to fulfill our desires.

Living a life of resilience means developing and practicing the art of staying true to the essence of who we are and what is important to us while viewing both good things and bad things with equal detachment. By not creating our own reality that is not congruent with the actual reality, we are safeguarding ourselves from the plunge that inevitably follows an unfavorable outcome.

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