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? What happens when plans fail?
Plans fail. So what can we do about it?
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 a person as “the one” suddenly ends. 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 checklist of goals 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.
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.
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 when plans fail, 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 transformation door that is opening.
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 fear. Ultimate fulfillment is only possible when we change the habituated thoughts and responses that keep us at a very base, survival level.