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What to Do When You’re Disappointed With Your Life

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What can you do when you’re disappointed with life? Let me start with a short story.

The other night, I was sitting on my daughter’s bed telling her good night. She looked at her glass of “night water” and said, “Oh, my glass is half full. Would you mind getting me some more, Mom?”

She smiled at me and added, “Hey, I said the glass is half full, instead of saying it was half empty.”

“That means you’re an optimist!” I said, with a laugh.

And that is one of the things you can do when life disappoints—frame your thinking around the positive. Not in a “shutting out reality” kind of way, but in an “if I’m going to keep moving forward, I need to find something positive to cling to” kind of way.

Of course, that’s easier when the life disappointments are relatively small—not getting the house you put an offer on, not getting to take that trip home to visit your parents, or not being able to find your size in those shoes that were such a great deal. When life disappoints you in the big things—your marriage, your parenting, your dreams—it’s tougher to see the glass as half full, but you can. As moms, we really have to try to handle life disappointments well. Why? Because our children are watching us and will learn to handle disappointments by watching our behavior.

Here are 4 things to do when life disappoints you. Even if you really feel like giving up, consider the point we just made—that your children are watching you—and let that be your ultimate motivation for dealing with disappointment in your life well.

1. Face your disappointment.

When you’re disappointed with your life, facing that fact head-on is the first step in handling your disappointment well. Facing it will help you deal with the disappointment directly, rather than taking out your bitterness and sadness on your family.

Let’s say you’re disappointed with your husband, your children’s behavior, or the fact that you haven’t achieved what you’d hoped to in life. Go ahead and admit that to yourself. It doesn’t make you a bad person to acknowledge it in your own mind, “I am disappointed that my husband can’t seem to succeed at his job. I am disappointed that my children don’t seem motivated. I am disappointed I didn’t finish my degree. I am disappointed that I can’t be a stay-at-home mom.” The best way to begin responding to the disappointment is to face it.

2. Change what you can.

Disappointment is like a pot of boiling water. It must be dealt with. If you leave the water boiling, it can bubble over; left unattended, it will eventually boil away and burn the pot. That’s how disappointment works. It can manifest as outward anger, frustration, and impatience — boiling over. Or it can fester and do its damage through bitterness, hopelessness, or resignation — burning the pot. Either of those manifestations is unhealthy for us and unhealthy for our children to witness. If we’re using our pot of boiling water analogy, this is where you pull the pot off the stove, turn down the heat, or turn it off completely.

Same with our disappointment. We change what we can about the trigger that’s causing, or has caused, the disappointment. Having said that, take great care with this step. You are not making a change in a vacuum. Your choice will not only affect you but possibly your children as well. So if you’re disappointed that you didn’t get a degree, one way to change that is to go back to school full-time. However, that might be too extreme, considering the lifestyle change it could mean for your family. A better choice might be to go back to school part-time or take online classes. The goal is to change what you can without sacrificing your children’s needs and their stability.

3. Accept and move forward.

At this point, you’ve faced your disappointments and looked at ways to make changes in your life. There will be things that you have been able to change, then there will be things you can’t change. Make up your mind to accept that that is how things are going to be. Feel empowered that you are deciding to maturely accept life as it is.

Work within the framework of your present life, accepting the things you don’t have the power to change, and moving forward, positive that there is still good in your life. That is positive thinking. Don’t you want your children to be able to handle their life disappointments that way? Show them how it’s done!

4. Have selective vision.

Okay, you’ve faced, you’ve changed, you’ve accepted, and moved on. Now comes choosing what you will see. Choose to see your life as half full… remember, for your children. As we said earlier, there are disappointments that are devastating—a sick child, a failed marriage, bad health. Those kinds of things are so, so heavy to bear. And believe me, I have been there. When one of my children was very ill, it took all I could muster to soldier on, for the benefit of my sick child, and my well child.

I’ll never forget, in the midst of my heartache, going to a Mother’s Day tea at my children’s school. My ill child was floundering, but my other child was there in front of me, and I chose not to crumble. I chose to show this child how to handle life’s disappointments. I chose to see the glass, and life, as half full, because it was.

What do you do when life disappoints you?


How do you help friends when they’re disappointed about something?

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