Have you ever had something turn out far different than you expected it would and felt immensely disappointed? Have you ever been so let down by a person or situation that you thought you’d never get over it? Have you ever not lived up to your own standards and felt a sense of failure?
Let’s face it — life is full of surprises that are not always the kind we would wish for:
- A job and the financial security that came with it are gone.
- A relationship with the one we thought was “the one” suddenly ends or becomes the one thing we can’t get right.
- A career path that was executed with precision becomes lackluster and tainted with doubt.
- A pregnancy that is wished for isn’t happening.
- A project we poured our blood, sweat, and tears into doesn’t bring the results we expected.
- A parent suddenly isn’t there anymore, or a child doesn’t live up to the potential we saw in him.
- An illness interrupts our life.
- Or we’ve checked off everything on our life checklist and still don’t feel fulfilled.
We suffer when our reality does not match the expectations we are so attached to. If you can relate to this brand of discomfort — the kind fueled by a life drunk with expectations and the resulting crash we experience when things do not go as we planned or hoped — then you have experienced an Expectation Hangover.
And you are not alone. I spent most of my life working hard to achieve personal and professional goals that I believed would make me feel happy and successful. My life unfolded according to the plan I worked hard to achieve. I did everything “right.” However, when my career, engagement, finances, relationship with my family, and health came crashing down around me, I found myself in the midst of an Expectation Hangover I feared I would never overcome. And that was just my twenties!
If you are anything like me, you have taken great comfort in planning and attempting to control life. We all take great pride in setting goals and achieving them. We find value in living up to the expectations of others, and security in others’ living up to our expectations of them. But in those moments when things don’t go as expected, not only do we feel disappointed, but we begin to doubt everything — including ourselves.
Is It Possible To Transform Disappointment?
We internalize the lack of desired external results by making it mean we did something wrong or were wronged. This creates suffering that can range from tolerable to unbearable. Disappointment is indeed part of the human experience, but is the suffering necessary? It’s easy to feel good when things are going well, but how do we reduce our suffering when they aren’t? Is it possible to transform disappointment?
The answer is yes — if we learn how to leverage disappointment so we get something out of it rather than only suffering through it. Your disappointment might be the best thing that ever happened to you. Expectation Hangovers are doorways to tremendous opportunities to heal issues from our past, change how we are living in the present, and create a future based on who we truly are rather than who we expected to be. The problem is that we become so blinded by what we think we want, and paralyzed by the pain of not getting it, that we do not see the transformational door that is opening.
Get The Latest From InnerSelf
We pray for things to be different even though we stay the same. We exhaust ourselves by working hard to change our external circumstances without changing ourselves. The fear of encountering another Expectation Hangover can be paralyzing, so we remain in the discomfort of our suffering. But not facing our disappointment and apprehension about taking a step forward is far more damaging than anything we are afraid of.
Ultimate fulfillment is only possible when we change the habituated thoughts and responses that keep us at a very base, survival level. You want to thrive, not just survive, don’t you?
“Some changes look negative on the surface, but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” — Eckhart Tolle
Asking “What Am I Learning?”
There are many inspirational stories about people who have overcome huge obstacles and are now living “happily ever after.” We often hear the “before” and “after” story, but how did they get to the happy part? What exactly is the recipe for turning lemons into lemonade?
It begins with asking “What am I learning?” rather than “Why is this happening?” This question opens your mind to possibility and gets you out of feeling like a victim of your life. You can then leverage your disappointment rather than just attempting to get rid of it or wallowing in your suffering.
You have an innocent and playful side that is willing to be curious and try new things the way a young child does. You have a sensitive side that has taken things personally and deserves compassion. You have a warrior side that is courageously committed to positive change. You have a wise woman or man within you who has amazing insight and experience, and gently nudges you along, the way a loving parent would. And you have a spiritual side that can see everything from a place of detachment and acceptance.
I ask you to be willing to let go of your expectations. “But,” you may say, “my expectations motivate me and help me achieve my goals.” Not true.
Expectations vs. Goals
Let’s make a distinction: An expectation is defined as “an eager anticipation for something to happen.” A goal is defined as “a purpose or objective.” When we are clinging to expectations, we are waiting for something to happen and giving our power away. As we start to identify and release our expectations, we can take more empowering steps toward achieving our goals, with a clear sense of purpose.
The Expectation Hangovers I have witnessed have deeply touched my heart and inspired tremendous compassion for the pain that is part of human experience. I am moved by what I have seen people face. I too have experienced Expectation Hangovers and seen the blessings that come with them.
Each of us has felt broken and bruised; and each of us has the inner resources we need to heal and transform. Every unfortunate circumstance can bring us great fortune. It is in the most undesirable of external circumstances that we discover internal qualities like courage, faith, compassion, inspiration, acceptance, and love.
Life often throws us a curveball to get us to look in a different direction, one that is even better than we planned. Before that new direction is revealed, there is a window of opportunity — a chance to change behaviors that keep us in limiting patterns where we seem to face one Expectation Hangover after another. This is your window of opportunity.
“To be alive is to be disappointed. You tried and failed and kept on trying, never knowing whether you’d ever get what you wanted. But sometimes we get what we need.” — Joan D. Vinge
©2014. Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com
Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life
by Christine Hassler.
About the Author
Christine Hassler left her job as a successful Hollywood agent to pursue a life she could be passionate about. In 2005 she wrote a guidebook for quarter-life women, 20 Something, 20 Everything, and she later wrote a book for men and women, 20 Something Manifesto. Today, as a life coach and speaker, she supports people of all ages. She leads seminars and retreats at colleges, at conferences, at corporations, and in beautiful locations around the world. To contact Christine or to learn more about her workshops, speaking events, and coaching sessions, visit www.christinehassler.com.
Watch a video with Christine: Moving Out of Fear and Into Love