Today I want to discuss what disappointment is and how we can avoid it.

What is disappointment?

Disappointment is the state of feeling sadness or displeasure by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or pleasures. Dissatisfaction arises from unmet expectations, and this feeling can lead to depression, regret, sadness, and much more.

I’ve spent a fair amount of my life disappointed in institutions, systems, politics, other people, and myself. I’ve learned that this frustration stems from having unrealistic hopes as well as giving power over my own fate to other people.

I want to go over how to avoid being disappointed through proper goal setting and having sensible expectations.

Set realistic goals

set realistic goals disappointment

Set realistic goals.

Our first focus is always on the individual. We control ourselves, our hopes, our actions, and our goals. Through the creation and setting of achievable goals, we can lower our potential for being disappointed.

I have an entire goal series covering the creation of objectives. To be brief, we should create life goals which our whole being is directed toward accomplishing. Second, we should set long-term goals that serve as benchmarks to our life goal. Lastly, we need to have daily tasks that feed into our long-term goals.

However, it is easy to romanticize our abilities. Setting unrealistic goals that are impossible to accomplish can lead to disappointment and frustration. For example, we can set the goal to receive our four-year degree in one-year. Such a goal is rather ridiculous and doesn’t respect reality. When we fail to reach this goal, we’ll feel anger towards ourselves and become discouraged.

That’s why it’s important to analyze where we are in life, our abilities, and our responsibilities. From this analysis, we can create a set of goals we can accomplish with zeal and persistence, which reduces our chance of giving up and being discouraged.

For example, if I wanted to complete a four-year degree in three-years, I might be able to do it. However, I have to remember I have a family, a full-time job, and other responsibilities. Therefore, it’s more realistic to set a goal to complete my degree in four or even five years. This isn’t moving the goal post or giving up: I’m still challenging myself but I’m not pushing myself to the point of exhaustion or to uphold unrealistic expectations which don’t serve my ultimate ends.

Another example – I often try to do too much at one time. I may try to master my writing while learning to code along with learning to draw and regularly going to the gym. Oh, and I have a child and a wife to provide for. Trying to do all these things, at once, is overwhelming and I’m bound to fail at one of my tasks. It’s better to take my time as well as my energy and focus them towards a few key pursuits then expand from there. If I do too much at one time, I’ll fail. Then, I’ll create disappointment which will undermine my progress.

Realistic Expectations

be realistic in your expectations

Be realistic in your expectations when dealing with the world.

We do not control the world. As I discussed in my power blog post, we have power over our actions, our emotions, and our ideas. However, we do not control the rest of reality and understanding this can help us reduce disappointment.

Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself…. therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction. – Marcus Aurelius

For starters, the world owes us nothing. People can be cruel, disrespectful, and idiotic. We have to take the abuse and disrespect with elegance and pride. We simply have to rise above the pettiness of the collective and not expect the rest of society to do the same. As individuals, we have to always strive for greatness, and that includes having the emotional intelligence to deal with other people when they are rude or disrespectful. Whether you have a nasty customer at your job or a person cuts you off in traffic, remain grateful, so that you do not disregard people.

Secondly, we cannot expect competence from others. I still struggle with this. I hope people to have more skills and abilities than they do. However, my mindset serves my own ego and is indicative of my self-centered worldview. I have to adjust my mind, be patient with others, and hope that more competent and capable people are patient with me. Never become embittered or disappointed when people are ignorant of certain tasks, social conventions, or standards. Just be grateful that you have an opportunity to direct and teach them in better ways that will serve them in the future.

marcus aurelius

Marcus Aurelius

Lastly, do not expect society to cease its implosion. I’m very anti-society because collectives function in a very short-term way. Whether it’s the national debt or the waste of natural resources, governments, corporations, and other institutions could care less about what happens tomorrow. The most casual look at the latest in politics shows this. So, the best solution is to ignore this decline, engage when you need to, then move on with one’s life. We can’t be held back by society failing to act virtuous – we have to forge our own path and win our independence.

The world is not under our control. As individuals, we only control ourselves, and that means accepting most of life falls outside of our domain.


never romanticize your abilities

Never romanticize your abilities or the world’s virtue.

Reduce disappointment and frustrations in life by avoiding poor goals and unrealistic expectations. Believe in your skills as an individual to succeed. Additionally, master emotional control and narration creation, so you can live with fewer regrets and more successes.


  1. When was the last time you were disappointed? Why? Did you set a high goal and failed to accomplish it? Or did you have an expectation not fulfilled?
  2. What feelings do you typically associate with your disappointment? Why?
  3. How have you reduced disappointment in the past? How would you reduce disappointment now?
  4. Please read The Psychology of Disappointment. It is a great article that breaks down the psychology behind disappointment.

Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.

*Image credit to Wikipedia Commons and Unsplash.