I have recently returned from a speaking engagement in the North Western American city of Seattle in Washington state. It was an all expenses paid trip for which I was paid a modest fee for giving my informal and informative lecture. My talk went down enormously well and, professionally, it was an enormous success, yet despite my talk being very well received I still had to deal with that dreadful emotion of disappointment along the way.
Disappointment is a dangerous thing and if not dealt with correctly can fester and evolve into something dark and terrible if you allow it, so it behoves us all to have robust coping strategies in place to deal with it when it arises.
My disappointment in this instance was mostly my fault, derived, as it was, from my heightened expectations. You see over the years when someone informs me a trip is to be “all expenses paid” I have come to expect a certain level of, well, luxury if I am honest.
Typically what happens with these sort of engagements is I will be invited to attend and give a speech. I will either accept the invitation or politely decline. If I agree I will be sent, via courier, a full itinerary, details of the event, the type of speech they require (including subject matter, what to avoid, duration etc.) and my travel tickets and hotel details.
Usually, I would be collected by private car and whisked to the airport, where my bags would be received, and I would be escorted to the first class lounge. At the other end, I would be met at the airport and whisked once again by private vehicle to my wonderfully appointed hotel. On my return the agreed fee will be deposited in my bank account and all parties will be happy. All very painless and untaxing.
On this particular instance, my eyebrows were somewhat raised when the travel package included a return train ticket to the airport (it was first class which was something – but the train?) It got worse, however. The journey was not even via the Heathrow Express but into St Pancras and then onwards to Heathrow on the, how can I put this, London Underground. By now I was beginning to panic a little. I opened the plain white envelope which contained my airline tickets, fearing the worst and not being disappointed. There it was, those dreadful words, “economy class”.
Having already accepted the engagement and being a man of my word there would be no going back. I did, however, give myself an undertaking that I would always inquire in future regarding the travel arrangements before any agreement is forthcoming.
You can read about my somewhat tawdry attempt at securing an upgrade here, but there it was, disappointment and I now had to engage all my coping strategies in order to survive the experience.
Disappointment is an emotion that a good number of people have a problematic time accepting and handling.
With all kinds of disappointment, from the mundane to the serious, I would propose five steps to follow:
Firstly, manage emotion, do not take it personally, review your initial expectations, gain a broader perspective and keep going (in other words dust yourself off and try again)
It is imperative to let yourself feel so that you can understand what the experience means to you. Don’t be tempted to make any meaningful choices at this point or even act on your emotional state. It may be a while before you reach a more calm state of mind; when you do, only then should you respond.
Do not take it personally.
So many of us are all too ready to attribute adverse life events to our shortcomings. We say that we merited it because we are just not “good enough” to deserve a different outcome. The reality is, life will carry on, whether you are there or not. In this case, you chanced to be present during the event, which had nothing to do with you.
Review your anticipations.
When you carefully observe your expectations, you will be getting closer to an accurate understanding of the event. Perhaps your expectations were unrealistic. Maybe they could be attuned a little to cope with this new reality. Either way now is the time to question whether these expectations serve you.
Take on a broader viewpoint.
The ability to self-reflect is the core of good mental health. Take some time to discover what is happening for you around this disappointment – what it means to you and what lessons there are to learn about life.
Try again or attempt a different approach.
It is now time to make a significant decision about what to do next and how to take action. If you genuinely think you are likely to prosper by having another attempt, then, by all means, do so. Otherwise, the shrewdest course of action might be to attempt a different approach. With higher powers of self-reflection, a more in-depth understanding and newfound resources efficiently dealing with disappointment, you are now more likely to experience triumph.
- Harold S Kushner
- Edition no. Reprints (04/12/2002)
- Paperback: 208 pages
As for me, well I returned unscathed and now feel a better person for enduring the sheer horror of steerage class. Would I travel on the London Underground and in “economy class” again? Perhaps not but if it did happen for whatever reason, I would undoubtedly cope.
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