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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Six Coping Strategies for Life's Disappointments

We all face those moments in life when we don't achieve our goals despite our best efforts.  We may not find our soulmate or our dream job. It may be too late to have more kids and the pretty house in the great school district may be out of our reach.  Marriages may break up despite our best efforts to save them or our children may not be as motivated as we would like them to be. What do you do when the goals and dreams you have carefully planned and worked hard to achieve are not in the cards for you?  

Below are six practical ways to begin to accept the situation and move on, or change your approach:

(1)   Face the truth of the situation - Denying the reality of a bad situation makes it worse or keeps you standing still when you should be working on solving the problems.  Awareness is the first step to change.  Be willing to face what is.

(2) Allow yourself to mourn your lost dreams - The discrepancy between how you wanted things to turn out and how they actually did can lead to great sadness. Mourning is a step towards letting go.  Take time to connect with your feelings in a compassionate way.

(3)  Don't  get stuck feeling like a victim - Whatever your situation, 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)  Check if your expectations are realistic -  The twenty-first century presents us with new realities, including less job creation and more competition for entry into the best colleges.  There are no guarantees anymore and you may need to take alternative routes to your goals if the planned pathways turn out to be blocked.

(5)  Be kind to yourself - When things don't work out, it may not be because you did anything wrong.  You may be turned down for a job if you're not the best match for a company's needs.  The person you are drawn to may be phobic of commitment.  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 are doing isn't working, you may need to do something different.  To succeed as an entrepreneur, you may need to change your product or service, marketing strategy, or location. If there is no market for your services, you may have to reinvent yourself.  If you aren't meeting potential romantic partners, you may want to try doing different activities or going to different places. Getting what you want often means moving out of your comfort zone and tolerating uncertainty.

Disappointment and loss are difficult to deal with.  Expect to feel sad or angry and to be uncertain about your next steps.  Build a support system to keep you motivated while you undertake difficult changes in outlook or strategy.  A trained psychotherapist can provide both support and expertise, while friends and family can reassure you of your worth and ability to succeed or provide material or practical help.

With patience and calm, you will eventually find another way to fulfillment.

About the Author

Dr Melanie Greenberg is a California-licensed psychologist  who offers both in person psychotherapy and distance coaching to help you navigate past life's roadblocks.  
Visit her psychotherapy services page for more information and ways to contact her:
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