Life is definitely not fair. This is a well-known fact. You probably heard an adult tell you this when you were a kid. Things very often do not turn out the way we planned or hoped. Often times, we must develop an alternate plan or goals for ourselves.
This is definitely easier for some people than others.
Those of us who are more idealistic by nature and/or perfectionists tend to really struggle when our life goals are not realized. The struggle can often times get us stuck in hopelessness, despair, depression, and can even lead to addictions or destructive behaviors.
What are some of the ways life disappoints us?
Perhaps it’s not not being able to succeed in college or higher education as expected, not being married by a certain age, not finding a good job or career, or not being able to have children when desired. Maybe you’re dealing with the untimely death of a loved one. Maybe you’re getting divorced. These are just some of the disappointments that can come our way in life.
What do you do when life disappoints and the goals and dreams you have are not realized?
1. Face the truth of the situation.
Don’t get stuck in denial. Awareness is the first step to change. Be willing to face what is.
Grieving is to be expected in life. But grieving does not always involve the death of a person. Allow yourself to mourn your lost dreams.
The discrepancy between how you wanted things to turn out and how they actually did turn out can lead to great sadness and also anger. Grieving is a step towards letting go. Take time to connect with your feelings in a compassionate way.
3. Avoid a victim mindset.
Whatever your situations, you always have choices and skills to deal with it. Think about other situations that you coped with successfully and how you can apply the same skills to this situation.
4. Adjust your expectations.
There are no guarantees in life. You may need to re-evaluate your expectations as to how and when you might achieve your goals. Make sure your expectations are realistic given your past and present.
5. Be kind and gentle with yourself.
When things don’t work out, it may not be because you did anything wrong. While it’s important to look at the situation to see if there is anything to learn, adopt a compassionate attitude when evaluating yourself so you don’t get stuck in shame.
6. Be willing to try a different approach.
If what you’re doing isn’t working, you may need to do something different. You may need to take alternative routes to your goals if the planned pathways turn out to be blocked. You may have to reinvent yourself. Getting what you want often means moving out of your comfort zone and tolerating uncertainty.
These six steps are easier said than done. A trained therapist can assist in each of them and help you get back on track to life fulfillment. Build a support system to help you through the difficulty when life disappoints you.
Stacey Wald, LAPC, RD
swald @ growcounseling.com