My fiance didn’t want to attend the wedding. No problem. I’d settle for a small reception. Big problem: He didn’t want to get married.
ME: Umm. . We’re in love. What do you mean you don’t want to get married?
Understandably, I needed clarification.
ME: Do you mean you don’t want to get married EVER or do you mean you don’t want to marry me?
He meant the latter. He wanted to get married, just not to me.
That was a problem for me. Everyone I knew thought I was getting married. To Him. The wedding was months away. Date set. Church booked. Invitations ordered.
People who get married make alternate plans for weather or traffic. People don’t have a plan in case the groom backs out. I didn’t have a PLAN B. Most of us don’t when disappointment strikes.
Unfortunately, I can’t control what happens to me, but I can control how I respond to it.
He didn’t want to get married. Nothing I could do or say that would change his mind. (Believe me, I tried.) Unfortunately, you can’t go through life without disappointments and failures. But you can learn how to use them to your advantage. It’s a matter of interpretation. Interpretation of circumstances is totally up to you.
Your view of life will determine how you do life.
Not what other people say about you or to you; not your job or how much money you make or even what people do to you or the kind of family you come from. It’s about how you decide to look at those disappointments and respond to them.
The information goes into YOUR BRAIN. You control your brain so you get to decide how you will interpret the information and how you will let it affect your life.
How you view and respond to disappointments determines your ultimate happiness and success.
He didn’t want to marry me. As disappointing as it was, there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. So I had to look at my options. Either I could consider myself a loser (because I sure felt like one) and move into a Convent or I could to re-frame the disappointment and put it into some kind of perspective that would allow me to move on. You can lead a horse to the altar, but you can’t make him marry.
Interpretation not only helps keep disappointment in perspective, but it also dictates your recovery and ability to move on. I’m not talking about spinning fairy tales. I’m talking about re-framing–accentuating the positive– and putting the experience into perspective in the big picture of your life. Your whole life. Not one moment in time. That’s the difference in those who survive and those who thrive.
When disappointment rears its ugly head, shed new light on your situation. These tools will help you do just that:
Step 1: Remember who’s in control.
It’s not you. We aren’t in control of anything. Sure, we can influence situations by our actions, but ultimately we don’t decide what happens. God does. No one wants to hear that in the midst of a crisis. Holding to that belief will guide you and give you something to hang onto as you flail in the wind.
“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. Those are God’s words. And, He really does have a plan for your life.
It might not feel like it, and it might not be the plan that you imagined. BUT, something like being dumped by your boyfriend or getting fired or a failed business or a betrayal can’t thwart God’s plans for you. Whatever those plans are.
Step 2: Feelings aren’t facts.
Just because you feel something doesn’t mean it’s true, and you certainly don’t have to act on it. Feelings are just that: feelings. They, like circumstances, change. Take them into account. But, keep them in perspective and don’t allow them to run the show. You don’t have to do what they say. Feelings can cloud a situation. You may feel down and defeated. You won’t always feel that way. And, just because a circumstance didn’t work out in your favor, doesn’t mean that it never will. Even if it feels that way now. Feelings are tricky. They lie and distort the truth, so beware. If necessary, seek help. Therapists, pastors, life coaches, and friends can all help you distinguish between feeling and fact as well as give perspective.
Step 3: Circumstances are temporary.
Sometimes it seems as if your situation will never change. Whatever your circumstances are today, you can trust that they will change. God can change them. Bad stuff happens to bad people but bad stuff happens to good people, too. Circumstances are ONE moment in time. (It might be one LONG moment.) But, like the weather, circumstances change. They come. They go. If you’re in a storm, ride it out. There will be another sunny day. Disappointment, like circumstances, is temporary.
Step 4: This circumstance doesn’t predict your future.
I’m actually talking about generalizing, which is a form of faulty thinking. When we generalize, we use present events, past hurts, and past events to predict the future. And we also use them as excuses not to move forward. Generalizers use statements like ” I will never . . . ” or “He always. . . ” “I got fired so that makes me a terrible employee who no one will ever want to hire.” If it happened once, it will happen always. Not true. A relationship goes south, so you are the worst partner ever and you’ll always end up driving people away? Probably not. See the pattern? One situation isn’t true for everything. Don’t use your circumstances to paint your life with a broad stroke. Look at a bad circumstance as just that: one bad circumstance. It doesn’t predict your future.
Step 5: Don’t take it personally.
(Okay, when someone dumps you, it’s hard not to take it personally. That’s one you really have to work through.) Truthfully, your circumstances are all part of the plan for your life. I know. Blah, blah, blah. No one wants to hear that when going through a hard time. But, that’s part of gaining perspective. Everyone is not out to get you. Try not to take circumstances personally. Sometimes bad things just happen. You lose a job or you don’t get a promotion or a raise. Sometimes those decisions have nothing to do with you. Maybe there wasn’t enough money in the budget for raises. Perhaps another person is truly more qualified than you for the job. In that case, concentrate your efforts on what you need to do to improve your circumstance. Think of creative ways to change your situation.
Step 6: Take time to process.
Re-framing doesn’t mean ignoring your feelings, taking up residence in La-La Land, and pretending it didn’t happen. Before you can move past something, you have to acknowledge its impact. Admit that it really hurt. Then, examine yourself:
What did I expect to happen?
Why am I feeling disappointed?
What can I learn from this experience?
How can I approach things differently in the future?
Step 7: Don’t try to control the outcome.
Circumstances happen that are beyond your control. When disappointment hits, it’s easy to begin to look for ways to change the situation.(He doesn’t want to marry me? I’m sure I can change his mind.) Believe me, trying to change things that are out of your control will only lead to more frustration. You can’t control things that are out of your control. Period. It’s like trying to drink from a fire hose with a paper straw. Instead of trying to control, try to find perspective.
IT’S ALL IN THE WAY YOU LOOK AT IT
Hard to believe, but that painful experience is now a memory and has no significance in my life. Of course at the time, I didn’t feel that way. Over time, I realized that THE experience is just one of many, many experiences in the overall scheme of my life, and it isn’t THE EXPERIENCE that I was going to let define me.
If you want to continue progressing through life, you have to move on.
And I did.
He didn’t want to marry me.
That is fact.
Just because he didn’t want to marry me didn’t mean that no one ever would want to marry me . . . ever.
That is perspective.
As disruptive as it was, that experience allowed me opportunities that I may not have considered otherwise.
That is perspective.
You are not a victim of your circumstances.
“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”–Jeremiah 29:11.
A disappointment is only one experience in a lifetime of experiences. It cannot deter God’s plans for your life.
Maybe you’re working through a disappointment right now. Will you define yourself by that circumstance? Or is now a good time to put that situation into perspective and move on with your life? It’s not easy, but it can be done.
I made plans to move on with my life. I began applying to grad schools out of state and focused on new opportunities.
And guess who came knocking at my door?