What Do You Do When Everything Doesn’t Go As Planned?

Feb 4, 2015, Life, Self Development

We know we need to set big goals to accomplish great things in life. But that often leads to disappointment for many people when they don’t reach their goals, or when setbacks & circumstances arise out of their control. In this post, I’ll share what I feel are the keys to pursuing greatness while also minimizing disappointments.

Have you ever set a big goal, only to be disappointed when it didn’t happen as planned?

…Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Every person has had this experience.

The key is not to dwell on those disappointments, or keep you from taking action out of fear of failure. For a good part of my life, I resisted stepping up to the plate and aiming for big goals, because of that exact thing: fear of failure. I didn’t want to move forward until I felt like success was guaranteed and all “my ducks were in a row”.

But, like standing at a river bank, life was flowing by, and I was left just watching.

If you’re like I was, holding yourself back, not going big in life, because you’re worried about the disappointment that may come from not achieving what you want, or the unexpected circumstances around you that may arise and give you trouble, remember that the pain of regret far outweighs the pain of discipline. You’ll never know what you could have accomplished, if you let what’s happened to you stop you in your tracks.


“One’s best success comes after their greatest disappointments.” – Henry Ward Beecher


Not long after graduating from college, I was burdened and weighed down with expectations piled on myself over time, from being nominated “most likely to succeed” in my high school senior class and graduating cum laud in college, to seeing friends from college earning large incomes right out of the gates in their careers and me having enormous dreams of what I wanted to accomplish in life.

I had this feeling that the entire world had set a standard for me to live up to: be successful, have a great career, make a lot of money, etc.

But in the midst of that pressure, I couldn’t get rid of this feeling that I wasn’t doing what was right for me. The job/career route just wasn’t for me. I felt like an eagle in a pen of chickens, who just didn’t know how to fly and be the eagle I was meant to be.

But one day, a good friend and co-worker said to me, “Brent, you need to just jump in the river and swim! You may wash up on the shore of the riverbank downstream, but at least you’re moving. And, you never know what might be waiting for you on the shore. Just jump.

…I had to stop setting expectations for the future and just jump in and go with the flow, wherever life’s current took me.

And that’s exactly what I did. I quit my job (even though I wasn’t financially ready for it) and pursued network marketing for a number of years, while also running my own small residential contracting operation. I got away from worrying about what others thought of me, and got out of the man-made American Rat Race, and just focused on living each day to the fullest and improving myself every day.

I learned to focus on what I could do now, and only what I had control of, and let the rest of my life take care of itself.

Through that process, and modeling mentors of mine, here are some lessons learned while I transitioned from the burdens of expectation to “going with the flow” of life.

Detach Yourself Emotionally From The Results

Always focus on what’s 100% within your control: your own efforts.

Anything besides that – outside forces, unexpected circumstances, setbacks, and end results – aren’t worth your worry & concern. Choose to expect certain outcomes less, and explore and adventure through life more.

When I had a bunch of expectations set of how I thought my life should be shortly after college, and I had reached none of them, because I placed so much weight on that, that state of constant disappointment and defeat left me feeling pretty much like a failure. And we all should know that will get you nowhere fast.

Female author & blogger, Christine Hassler, explains it like this:

Wanting things is not wrong. You are worthy and deserving of your dreams. The reason we set goals is because we want to feel a certain way and we think an outcome will produce a desired feeling or experience. What sets us up for disappointment is not our desires, but our attachment to our expectations.
(Twitter @christinhassler)

In mastering this practice of detaching myself from expectation and results, choosing instead to focus on only my actions, what I can control, and letting go and trusting God will provide everything I need, I’ve found that even greater things than I had imagined often come along.

Discipline Your Disappointment

My mentor in network marketing and personal development, Jim Rohn, would always say, “You must learn to discipline your disappointment. You didn’t set up the setup.”  What he meant by that was there are so many things in life we can’t control – the daily circumstances – and so you must choose to discipline yourself not to dwell on the disappointments that naturally arise when things don’t go as planned.

If you master this one skill, of disciplining your disappointments, you can be massively successful in life, as you’ll be able to pick yourself up in the midst of challenges and keep on moving forward, despite any outside factors and circumstances that may be there to stop you in your tracks.

My 7 Steps To Disciplining Disappointments

Recently experiencing an event of disappointment in my business – an expectation of something to happen by a certain time in a certain way – I reflected upon the 7 Steps To Disciplining Disappointments which I originally learned from blogger, Michelle Anderson.

1. Be Disappointed Only For A Brief Moment:

Allow yourself a short amount of time to get the frustration of disappointment out. If you’re like me, things like getting outside, exercising, going for a run, or hitting the racquetball, really help to alleviate the frustrations and get them out of my system. If you’re more like my wife, “crying it out” is the way you release your emotions. And for some, verbally “venting” to a loved one is what does the trick. Whatever method works best for you, take a bit of time to do that, and then make the decision to leave it in the past and move on.

You’re human, so you’re allowed to feel frustration & disappointment. But, the difference between the successful and unsuccessful people is the amount of time which they allow themselves to remain defeated, frustrated, and down emotionally.

2. Focus On What You Did Accomplish:

In the event of missing a big goal you were trying to reach, it’s very likely you hit some smaller milestones or goals along the way that you missed because you were focused on the bigger goal. Don’t neglect or downplay these as insignificant in comparison to the big goal. Choose to celebrate those milestones and victories you did accomplish along the way.

3. Reflect & Determine How You Can Improve:

Now, look back on what didn’t go as planned and see it as a learning opportunity. Explore and analyze the reasons why you didn’t achieve your goal. Ask yourself questions like:

…Did I truly give it my all?
…Where did I go off track?
…Did I take the action steps needed?
…What could I have done better or differently?

This process of discovering where you strayed can help you reconnect with the original emotions and intentions that helped create your goal, re-invigorating you to go for it again.

4. Re-Evaluate Your Goals:

Through your reflection and analysis, you may discover the problem was with the goal itself. Perhaps you set the goal too high, setting yourself up for disappointment. Or maybe you didn’t plan out the proper action steps necessary to reach the goal, or do enough of the right actions. Perhaps the timing and outside circumstances just weren’t right to allow it to happen. Whatever the case, you now have the opportunity to adjust your course from here forward, make improvements with a new goal or new actions to reach the goal.

5. Accountability:

You can hold yourself accountable to your goals by revisiting it often…having it written down in a journal or similar place gives you a tangible way to keep the goal and action steps in focus. Life is great at bombarding us with distractions, and without having our goals written and easily accessible, it can be very easy to lose sight of them.

Not only do you want to hold yourself accountable, but you’ll also want to share your goal with someone close to you. They will tell you when you’re not doing what you need to do to reach the goal, give you encouragement and support, and praise you when you do something well.

6. Make New Goals (If Necessary):

In the process of reflecting and analyzing, if you find that your goal was too big, it may be wise to set a new, more achievable goal – or even better, chunk it down into a set of smaller goals. Doing so will keep you motivated longer as you hit those intermediate goals along the way.

7. Try, Try Again:

You know the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” Now that you have discovered through reflection how to improve upon what left you disappointed, you need to get up, dust yourself off, and saddle up, partner!

…or as you would have learned from the way over-played Frozen™, “The past is in the past. …Let it go, LET IT GOOOO…!”  hahaha, sorry, I about got carried away there. But seriously, it’s in the past…learn from it, and get back up and try again.


Change Your Thoughts

One of my mentors, an author, and a master of meditation and searching within a person to discover more about them, Joey Klein, wrote in his book “The Inner Matrix” that everything we do in life comes from just 1 of 2 emotions: Love or Fear.

If you find yourself disappointed, it’s coming from that emotion of fear within yourself. It may sound quite simplistic, but if you don’t want to feel disappointed, you can choose simply not to, by moving from thoughts of fear to thoughts of love.

Meditate, and remind yourself verbally that you are a powerful being, full of love, and every situation happens for your good.

You will be astounded at the change in your perception of the world around you with such simple thoughts of love and abundance.

In Conclusion

I know from experience, at times, it will seem far easier to just feel defeated in the midst of the disappointment. But know that down the road in the future, looking back, the regret of not getting out of that disappointment (and the negative domino effect that would cause), would be far worse than the hard work and commitment it may take to bounce back from that disappointment.

The only way to get closer to the finish line in life is to discipline your disappointment, learn and adjust, and move forward.

Another thing Jim Rohn would always say is “The same winds of life blow on us all; the winds of defeat, catastrophe, health/illness, etc. But it’s the set of your sails that make the difference. I love that quote, which simply means that 10% of your life is determined by what happens to you – the things that happen to ALL of us sometime or another in life – but 90% is determined by how you react to it.

You have the ability, talent, and resources to make it through any of life’s disappointments…you control your reaction.

Will you let them defeat you? Or will you let them drive you harder?

…It’s your choice, my friend.

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