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What to Do When Life Is Disappointing

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Recently, a grocery store chain in Australia ran a promotion. For every $30 or more you spent in a single shop, you could enter online for a $5,000 flight voucher from Qantas. In fact, you could enter five times a day during the promotion month which thousands of people did. Me? I entered once. You know what? I won. 

Wait. Before you get excited or super happy for me, wait until you hear what comes next. 

To claim the prize, not only did you have to enter a unique entry code online from your receipt at the time you registered, but also turned out you had to provide them a copy of the original receipt. Think I read the fine print and hung on to a receipt from mid-October? You don’t have to be genius to figure this one out. (Hint: The answer is No, I didn’t.)

I went from big winner to @#&!* in seconds after reading the congratulatory email and getting the “you’re the big winner” phone call. Putting it mildly, I was disappointed. 

Mentally, I spent that $5,000 but in reality, nothing changed. I didn’t have the money last week, and I don’t this week. It was a little like fantasizing about what you’d do if you won the billion dollar lottery. For a millisecond you feel disappointed and then go back to regularly scheduled programming (i.e., your life.)

I’ll bet you’ve been there:

  • Submitted a proposal for a client, was looking promising, and it went to a competitor
  • Your client decided to postpone delivery after you’d already invested time and effort
  • You went to a store during a big sale, something you’ve been coveting was marked down 50%, but not one was left in your size.
  • Old friend was going to visit, but couldn’t last minute
  • Studied hard for an exam only to barely scrape out a passing grade
  • You decide to book a restaurant for a special occasion, labor over the decision and finally choose, only to discover they’ve been booked out for your date for months
  • Etc. (The list is long…)

It happens all the time. 

Hope —> YAY —> No Way

Life is Wonderful, and Life is Disappointing

Few things are all or nothing and life, as you well know, is a mixed bag. It’s a little like being on a teeter-totter. Did you go on one when you were a kid? It’s a long board balanced on a fulcrum. Someone sits opposite you, and you take turns going up and down. When you hit the bottom, you use your legs to propel yourself back up. Maybe sometimes you balance in the middle, hanging there, enjoying the feeling but more often than not, you’re in motion. 

Related: When You Feel the Fear, Do This Instead

Could a teeter-totter hold the secret to managing disappointment?

Sure could. 

What you do is you keep playing, keep rising and enjoying the moment, you linger at the top and prepare yourself for the descent. Down, up, down, up and having fun while you’re doing it.

Disappointments are not endings, they’re more like the middle of a story. It’s what happens next that teaches you the most about yourself and shows the world who you are. 

The next time life is disappointing here are my three tips:

  1. Feel it. Be disappointed.
  2. Take a breath.
  3. Figure out your next step.

Life will always have disappointments. The key to a happy life is learning to manage those disappointments without having them define, cripple, or stop you from living the life you want to live. Think about the good ol’ teeter-totter.

If you’re curious, my next step after the $5,000 slipped through my fingers was to get a duplicate receipt and write a perky message suggesting that it should be enough. Then I followed up with another message a week later. They finally responded, and asked me for more proof of identity and further proof of purchase. This morning they let me know they’re going to honor the award. OMG. 

I guess that’s my final tip, win or lose:

When life is disappointing, persist. 

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