LTR! Podcast Episode #9

How To Deal With Disappointments - Mental Contrasting

Disappointments in our personal lives and in business are inevitable. Managing those and finding solutions is essential to success. We talk about practical solutions and mental contrasting which can make you more successful and more happy in life.

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As freelancers, we are only as good as our physical and mental “fitness” allows us to be. While maintaining and learning new skills is great we also have to think about possible setbacks and how to deal with these.

In our work-lives and private lives, disappointments are inevitably gonna affect us. Feelings of anger, self-doubt, sadness, regret, hinder us from being productive and being focused on the tasks and goals we want to achieve, both, in our personal lives and out jobs. That’s why we are going to talk about Disappointments today and about tactics to help us deal with them.


How Do Disappointments occur?

We want to find success and fulfill our dreams. It is just hard work, right? From our parents, in school, … I am sure almost every one of us has been taught that hard work is going to be rewarded.  So it would be just a matter of time when we would be able to harvest the fruits of said hard work. But life does not come without its hurdles and often disappointments are inevitable.

We as business persons have to deal not just with professional disappointments but also in our private lives. This, at times, makes running a business and being a good person incredibly hard.

Disappointment comes in a wide variety. How some deals and business relationships turned out can be a huge disappointment, how we saw a person in our life who happened to turn out to be completely different…..but also, we can be disappointed about ourselves, for little mistakes we make but also for not reaching our goals, for not being where we think we are supposed to be.

Questions we ask ourselves can be:

  • Why have we missed a certain opportunity?
  • Why haven’t we tried harder?
  • Why didn’t we follow through when it counted?
  • Has this been all I could achieve with my efforts?

All these questions are normal. We all fail, we all make mistakes and we all experience self-doubt! We all experience disappointment with feelings of sadness, regret, and anger when our expectations in life or our jobs are not met.

From my experience, there are two main ways of dealing with disappointments.



One is the obvious, Change, which is repeated all over every self-help book ever written. If you have failed, try differently, if your way of doing things does not lead to the expected results, change. If you are unhappy, do something that cheers you up. If you don’t earn enough money, look for another job, other clients, rebrand, and so on. I think this approach is the easiest to explain and the easiest to suggest. I have to refer again to self-help books here as this mainly is the only tool or tactic recommended in such books because it is easy to give this advice. While dealing with disappointments itself is never easy this advice also is not applicable to every situation you might face.

So let us explore what other ways there are to dealing with disappointments when change is not an option. What if you are not in control of your reason for disappointment? What can we do to deal with these emotional reactions which keep us from fulfilling our dreams?


Acceptance is the other main way of dealing with disappointments. However, this needs some more clarification as to what this means is not necessarily native understanding to many of us.

When compared to the other ways of dealing with disappointments, acceptance, can easily be seen as resignation, the passive approach without taking any actions. I think there still is a big difference between resignation and acceptance!

While one means resigning ourselves to the situation without taking action to change our situation or our mental state, the other is working with life as it is. Dealing with situations we do not have an influence upon and even if we do not approve the state we find ourselves in.


Practical Tools For You To Deal With Disappointments

Change Tools:

  • Say yes more often, do more, go out and make new experiences.
  • Play the Long Game: like in sports, we win, we lose. It is not desirable but it never is the end. It is not final, it is not unchangeable.
  • Get Away with having a good time
  • Find Pockets of happiness even though you are in an unhappy situation. The point here is to interrupt thought patterns and create moments of happiness to actively get yourself into another state of mind and feel better.

Acceptance Tools:

  • Pay Attention to Everything. Mindfulness is a big word but it is a skill worth developing. Look at the big picture, zoom out and find inspiration in good stuff that is easily overlooked when being stuck in a rut. Our range of experiences is more than just those currently holding our attention!
  • Mental Contrasting: sometimes there is no way around disappointment. breaking the “if only” state

What Is mental Contrasting And How Does It Work?

When we got stuck in the “if only” cycle, mental contrasting can help to break the cycle.
“if only” thinking is poisonous. The only thing it does is create pain and only pain, depression, anxiety.

What’s done is done, what happened has happened.

Mental contrasting has been scientifically studied as a technique to deal with disappointments. The goal here is not to keep thinking about what you have missed out on or all the positive things you imagined for an event which did not occur and caused your disappointment.

It’s all in your imagination

To contrast these thoughts, you can visualize the obstacles you are facing which caused your disappointments.

This opens the doors for acceptance and to not focus on the “if only” anymore.

The 4 steps of Mental Contrasting

Oettingen has formalized the tenets of positive expectation with a hint of realism, making mental contrasting into a structured strategy for easy implementation, it is known as WOOP, the acronym for:

1. Wish

Make a wish but ensure it is challenging, but also realistic.

2.  Outcome

Identify the best possible consequences of this wish coming true and how that would make you feel. Savor it.

3.  Obstacle

Identify the main obstacles within yourself, such as emotions or habits that stand in the way of you fulfilling your wish. Do not shy away from them rather envision them as fully as you would your most favorable outcomes.

4.  Plan

Create a specific plan for overcoming each obstacle that stands in your way of success. When you make this plan, try to be as specific, realistic and practical as possible.

The Science Supporting Mental Contrasting

Studies have found this approach to be far more effective than positive or negative thinking alone. People using mental contrasting have been found to exercise more, eat more vegetables, cultivate healthier relationships, and even recover from chronic back pain quicker (Stadler et al., 2009; Stadler et al., 2010; Houssais et al., 2013; Christiansen et al., 2010). 

Real People, Real Solutions:

And so I have asked on social media how other people are dealing with their disappointments.

One Answer I liked in particular as it ties in with the contrasting method introduced earlier:

“Disappointments toot in our own illusions about a situation and thus, are perceived as such. As we identify the illusion we have to acknowledge holding on to the illusion does not make sense. Once the illusion is gone, the disappointment is gone.”

Solutions people prefer:

  • eating pizza
  • cultivating positive thoughts
  • swallow the bitter pill and learn to be more skeptical, less naive
  • accepting the emotion of feeling bad for a day, go see, end the day and hopefully wake up in a better mood
  • wallow in self-pity for a while and wait for something else in life to catch one’s attention.
  • Having an honest and profound conversation with a sincere friend
  • Peanut butter!

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