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great eggs-pectations🥚

how to deal with disappointments and why age 47 might be tricky

- Posted byHannah Miller

It’s Easter week and I am hoping you have all appreciated a chance of pace over the weekend.

Easter means bunnies, chocolate and daffodils for many of us, but of course its root is in the Easter story – the loss of Good Friday and the incredible hope of Easter Sunday. You don’t need to have a faith to be able to enjoy the story and its significance.

But what about Easter Saturday?

I wonder if many of you reading this are in a bit of an Easter Saturday moment.

You’re not in the heartbreak season of a Good Friday, but you’re also not celebrating and riding high on an Easter Sunday vibe.

Easter Saturday is the in-between. It’s quiet. A comma, perhaps. There isn’t yet the breakthrough you’re looking for. You don’t get the job you wanted and you’re not sure what is next. You’re unsure of what is around the corner and it all feels somewhat flat. Not necessarily deeply unhappy, but are you feeling fulfilled? Do you have hope, or vision, or strategy, or direction? Easter Saturday lacks all this; it is disorientating and confusing and often comprehensively disappointing. Now, it doesn’t mean there isn’t anything good going on – very few of us are in that boat. But you are aware that something substantial is missing or perhaps life did not turn out as you’d expected.

Disappointment – that’s the watchword for an Easter Saturday season.

So, although I can’t begin to diagnose and support every individual situation, I would at least like to say that you’re not alone. Many of us are experiencing ‘Easter Saturday’ in some way, shape or form. To add some data to this assumption, apparently the peak of life-disappointment is age 47 so I have got that to look forward to. Lucky you if you’re reading this age 48 – the only way is up – and indeed, that’s how it works, as scientists refer to it as ‘the happiness curve’. So where are you on the happiness curve, whatever your age? And, more importantly, what can we do about it?

Well, much of life’s disappointments can be tracked back to expectations. Someone once said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache”. I think there is a lot to be said about this. For me personally, understanding that my expectations of others have caused me much disappointment has been one of the key learnings I have had as an adult.

I’d like to share a few ways we can deal with disappointment, or, if you like, our ‘Easter Saturday’ moments:

  • If disappointed with a person, ask yourself: did I communicate my expectations? I have learnt to recognise that I simply cannot hold people to expectations that I have not communicated. Do I have an expectation of a client, colleague, a friend, a loved one that I just assume them to know? If so, then I cannot hold them to account for not meeting it. I may have a set of standards, values, ways of behaving that are different to theirs. If I don’t let them know, how can I expect them to meet them? I remember years ago when a friend told me how much it upset her if I was late. She explained that for her it meant I didn’t value her or respect her time. Armed with this information, I tried harder to be on time, or to communicate when I was going to be late. Of course, I couldn’t meet this expectation all of the time, but knowing it was important to her made a difference for me.
  • What can I learn from this? I know this is such an annoying thing to say (believe me, I’ve had it said to me and I’ve said it to my kids, and I know it doesn’t always go down well). But annoying as it is, there is still some truth in it. Nothing is wasted and so how can I take the disappointment from this situation or let-down and use it to guide my future decisions? Now, I don’t mean use it to harbour pessimism or cynicism – that doesn’t help anyone. But instead, what does it reveal about you? About the others involved, about the thinking, the decision making, the outcomes? Use this approach to keep you thankful even when the outcome isn’t as you’d hoped.
  • Revise your expectations: try some retroactive adjustment. Social psychologists have identified what they call hindsight bias in which you can limit your disappointment by revising the high expectations you once had. Apparently, this can help us downgrade the disappointment over time by replacing the memory with a new, revised one. (I’d love to know if this one works for you?!).
  • Consider your level of control. How much actual control did you have over this situation? How much was in your hands, how much was due to your decisions, and how much was down to life circumstances, serendipity or other people’s choices? We can adjust our level of disappointment by reflecting on how much control we actually ever had over the situation. (Spoiler – there’s a lot less that we can control than we realise).

 

Finally, I would love to remind you that your ‘Easter Sunday’ will come. Not necessarily in all the ways you’d hope for, but, as John Lennon wisely said, ‘Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.’

With love,

Hannah x

 

 

 

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