5 Steps to Move Past Disappointment

We all experience some sort of disappointment in life. We are human – we make mistakes.


Those mistakes often lead to disappointment. You may not be the one who made a mistake, but circumstances, sometimes out of your control, come into play and lead to disappointment.

  • You look back at 2014 and recognize you didn’t accomplish your goals
  • That promotion you are “ready for” was given to someone else
  • You’ve had a set-back in your journey to realize your dream job
  • You realize you could have done more and an opportunity slipped through your hands

These and many other situations result in feeling disappointed.

So what can be done to deal with that disappointment and get on with moving on?

A new year offers a chance for a fresh start, and that is exactly what is needed for moving past disappointment. Here are a few thoughts about what helps through that process:

  1. Take time to grieve – this is about being present with your emotions and NOT just sweeping them under the rug. Let your feelings out – cry, write about your experience in a journal or share your emotions with a close friend.
  2. Remember, you’re not the only one – don’t beat yourself up. Sure, take accountability for your actions that may have led to the disappointment, but stop short of self-loathing and shame. There are plenty of examples of highly successful people who experienced great disappointment before achieving great results. (e.g., Albert Einstein failed his college entrance exam. Walt Disney was fired from his first media job. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.)
  3. Stop and reflect – what can you learn from this experience? Apply the lessons learned and make adjustments in your mindset and behaviors. What can you do differently in the future? We learn the most from overcoming a hardship so look at it as an opportunity for personal development.
  4. Appreciate your blessings – recognize all the good things you have going for you. Stepping back and looking at the total picture helps you gain perspective. I’ve found that failing at something often signals the need to take a different path … a better path that leads to greater happiness/success.
  5. Make a new plan & take action – an essential part of moving on is taking action. Figure out if you need to start a new path or determine what you need to DO to recover from the disappointment. Avoid getting stuck in despair. Do something that moves you closer to your desired state. Maybe it’s apologizing to someone to mend a relationship, finally finishing your LinkedIn profile to prep for a job search or seeking help from a coach to get assistance in developing new leadership behaviors. In the famous words of Yogi Berra, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” What matters is that you keep moving.

Life is challenging, and we will all face disappointments.

You always have a choice in how you respond in difficult situations.

I hope you choose to look for the silver lining – find the good that can come from any adverse circumstance and allow the experience to make you a more interesting and accepting person.

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@people-results.com