5 Ways to Get Over Disappointment

By Adam Booth

Below are five steps that can make it easier for you to recover from disappointment and make a fresh start.

1. Reflect and Take Ownership

Even things that seem close to impossible can and do happen. For example, you don’t get the promotion that you thought was a sure thing, or a project that you’ve been working on for months, even years, has been shut down.  Of course the disappointment from these events can cause stress and anxiety.  Recovery begins with spending some time trying to understand what actually happened.  Were there signals that things weren’t going well?  Did you make a poor judgement or decision that ultimately led to the setback?  Did you feel a lack of support from others connected to the project?  There are usually logical reasons operating underneath it all, if you are brave enough to look.   Managing your emotions and taking the time to reflect more deeply will help you to recover and leverage the learning in the future.  At the same time, don’t reflect too long because you might miss the next big thing that is coming your way.

2. Take a Breather

Often when we are disappointed we want to talk about it, maybe even rant about it as a way of dealing with our emotions.  It’s important to discuss what happened with others, particularly those most closely involved.  Equally important though is to know when it is time to let it go.  For some, continuing to seek information and support from others to validate their point of view is a strategy to feel better.   It’s important to discipline yourself to remain professional, know who you should and should not talk to, and read cues to figure out when others have had enough and it is time to move on.  It’s a sign of professional maturity to know that disappointments are difficult, but can also lead to learning and opportunities to move forward with hope or optimism.

3.Walk it Off

Engaging in physical activity can be a great way of releasing stress and tension, and clearing the mind.  For immediate relief after a disappointing event, take a walk…preferably outside.  Going for a walk can reset your emotions and get you ready for a more practical conversation regarding what went wrong.   The simple change of atmosphere that comes with a walk outside can take the heat out of a difficult moment.  Once your emotions have calmed down, it is a signal to others that you are ready to productively engage again.  Longer-term, regularly spending time outside and engaging in physical activity can become an ongoing means for managing any kind of stress on the job, not just disappointments.

4.Treat Yourself

It’s a good idea when you feel disappointed to treat yourself.  The treat can be as simple as enjoying a favorite but decadent fast food meal, choosing a full sugar Coke rather than a diet, going to the movies, making a purchase, or taking a few hours off.  It’s during this time that you realize that it was not you as a  person, but your work, that led to the disappointment.  You can treat yourself rather than beat yourself up.  In the end, sometimes you have to be your own best advocate in order to move on gracefully.


5. Don’t Let the Victors Get You Down

Often times in your disappointment, there are victors.  Practice being happy for others.  Learn the phrases and words that are important to say when others win. For example, say something like “Congratulations. While I’m disappointed, I understand that this is in the best interests for all involved.”   Interestingly enough, often a disappointment can wake you up to unforeseen issues better than a success.   Also, always remind yourself that ultimately, you are all on the same team.  Such a perspective will make you appear mature and generous.  Others will be more likely to involve you in the future.   Remember that others around you are paying close attention to how you respond to the disappointment or setback as a sign of your professional maturity.


We all feel disappointment in life, some more than others. Also, we all heal in different ways. It’s worthwhile to learn how to handle disappointment with maturity, grace, and diplomacy.  Doing so will make you stronger and more able to handle what comes your way next.


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