January 20, 2021
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Dealing with disappointment

By: Steven Campbell
March 13, 2020

Three weeks ago, a Rotarian in my Tuesday morning group described her trip to India to give polio drops to their children. When she was asked about knocking on the doors of the families who lived in the slums to reach their children, she answered, “There are no doors in the slums of India.”

I got teary-eyed. “I wish there was something I could do. But I’m just a 72 year-old white guy from Rohnert Park. What could I possibly do?”

Two hours later my agent texted me and asked if I would like to speak in India. The TiE Con Chandigarh Convention would pay to have me be their key-note speaker at their convention on February 29.  

So, I was in India from February 25 to March 4. 

And it contained more than I could possibly have imagined; its people, its traffic, its food and disappointment.

Getting to and from

Thirty hours were required to get there, and 35 hours to return, including the 16 hour flight to and from. The crowds were as challenging as Disneyland, but unlike Disneyland, the New Delhi airport is not the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

The people

The people in India are caring, gracious, and giving. 

The traffic

I was driven everywhere; quite an adventure. The lanes go in the opposite directions from America’s, and contain cars, buses, trucks, scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, and horses and a camel.

And although there are lines on the streets, they are largely ignored. Everyone honks instead. 

The food

The food was wonderful; vegetarian and a bit spicy. (I lost 5 pounds in the week I was there.)

And the disappointment

I had visions of making a lot of money in India! There would be as many as 1500 attendees at this convention, and if just ten percent brought my $97 on-line seminar, I would be bringing home a LOT of money to pay off some debts!

To make a long story short, I made nothing.

On the day after I spoke, I was sitting in the lobby of the Indian Business School waiting for a cab to take me around Chandigarh, and I was quietly weeping. “Why did I come here? What am I doing here? Why could I have at least made a little money?” “What did I do wrong?”

Since part of living is dealing with our disappointments, here are some ways that can help.

Understand what really happened.

Some instances of disappointment are predictable and preventable. However, there are others that are unavoidable and beyond our control. To manage disappointment, we need to differentiate between situations that fall within our control and factors that are beyond it. Being able to recognize the difference will help us to deal with our frustrations more appropriately.

Ask if our expectations are reasonable. 

Are we having unrealistically high expectations, and thus aiming too high? Or are we setting our goals too low? If you belong to that group of people who set their expectations too high, working constructively through disappointments may help you to modify expectations. You may learn to move away from perfectionistic standards; you may start to accept what is “good enough.” For those who have set the bar too low, what they should stop doing is hanging on to false beliefs about life like, “There is no more hope” or “Nothing ever works for me.” Avoiding disappointment is not possible in life; trying to do so is not a very constructive way of dealing with life’s challenges.

Reevaluate our perceptions and behaviors. 

Sometimes we are actually inviting disappointment. Could we have been clearer in our communication of what we were expecting from others? Do we really know what we expect from ourselves? Are we listening to what others are saying to us? Could we have done something different to arrive at a different outcome? Also, given what we know about ourselves, how can we adjust our expectations to be more effective the next time? And what support and resources do we have at our disposal to help us move through our feelings of disappointment successfully?

Don’t let disappointment deteriorate into apathy and depression. 

Sustained negative rumination is not a prescription for change. When we become preoccupied by bad news, we lose sight of what is right in our lives and in the world around us. We only internalize feelings of sadness and anger. Hanging on to these feelings can result in us unconsciously making them a part of our identity.

Remember this, dear friend. Disappointment is not meant to destroy us. If taken in stride, it can strengthen us and make us better. In spite of its devastating emotional impact, we may even consider encounters with disappointment as journeys toward greater insight and wisdom. 


Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent.” His seminar “Taming Your Mind, Unleashing Your Life” is now available online at  For more information, call Steven Campbell at 707-480-5507.