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Crank's Corner
Dealing With Disappointment

by Christopher W. Crank, PharmD, MS, BCPS; ICHP Executive Vice President

There has been a lot of opportunity to experience disappointment in 2020 and 2021. The disappointment has occurred in our professional and personal lives. Events have been cancelled or held virtually. We have had vacation plans postponed or cancelled in addition to limited opportunities to participate in family gatherings. All these reasons to experience disappointment during the pandemic are in addition to the usual disappointments that are a part of life.

I know I have been disappointed that I have still not been able to participate in a live educational meeting as ICHP’s Executive Vice President. I miss the interaction that you get with a live event. I have also been disappointed by the fact that I have not been able to take a road trip to visit health-systems across Illinois to network and promote ICHP. Based on my own disappointment, I decided to review what experts recommend. I have summarized my findings in a few key points.

Accept that it is OK to be disappointed.
It is normal to be sad or angry when you are disappointed. The goal should not be to never get upset. The goal should be to learn to manage and work through your disappointment. Acknowledge your frustrations by expressing them through writing or a conversation with a trusted friend. Expressing your feelings in a safe setting may help you overcome the feelings.

Keep things in perspective.
Try not to allow your disappointment to become your reality. Avoid negative thinking like “I guess we are never going to get to go on vacation” or “this is never going to end.” Keep your level of disappointment in line with how significant the issue is. When I am upset, I like to ask myself whether the problem will impact me in five years. If my answer is no, I try to reset my perspective and adjust my reaction to the situation accordingly.

Don’t dwell on your disappointment.
Wallowing in your disappointment won’t get you anywhere. Don’t beat yourself up or focus solely on the issue. Look for ways to move past it. Think of what you learned from the situation. Give yourself a pass on feeling upset but find ways to move on, such as by focusing on something else, such as a project or activity.

Set reasonable expectations next time.
It is important to ask if your expectations were reasonable to begin with. If you booked a vacation during the pandemic, you probably should have gone into it realizing that your plans might need to be altered based on changing situations. Multiple experts mentioned that higher hopes equal a bigger letdown when things don’t go as planned. I am not suggesting that you set low expectations so that you are always pleasantly surprised by better results; just keep your expectations reasonable.

Anticipate disappointment so you can manage it better.
If you can anticipate disappointment, you can better manage it when it happens. Consider adjusting your initial plans to account for contingencies or problems. If you face a challenge, you will have a preformed plan, and you will be less likely to be disappointed.

Learn from the situation and adjust next time.
Finally, when you experience disappointment, make sure you learn from the experience. Should you adjust your expectations next time? Was your contingency plan sufficient? As with many things, experience and practice will make you better equipped to deal with disappointment.

Disappointment is a part of life. We all experience it at one point or another. I know many have experienced what seems to be more than a fair share of disappointment in the last two years. Hopefully these tips will help you manage that disappointment. 

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