How To Avoid Disappointment

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A lot of our disappointments and frustrations are a result of outside forces. We make plans to meet up with a friend and the friend flakes. We buy a plane ticket and the flight is delayed. We drive across town, run into traffic, and arrive late to a meeting. We order food without cheese and get cheese anyway. (That’s actually a whole philosophical discussion for another day, hehe.)

Personally, I expect a lot out of myself. And I used to expect a lot out of other people.

In other words, I hold myself to a very high standard and I used to hold others to that same very high standard.

When I say I’m gonna do something, I do it. When I make a promise, I keep it. (Barring unforeseen circumstances, of course.)

Holding other people to a high standard has resulted in lots of feelings of disappointment.

Can you relate? Has there ever been a time when somebody has disappointed you?

Over the past couple of years I’ve been able to conquer those feelings of disappointment very simply. I stopped holding others to my high standards.

It’s not my place to hold others to a high standard, or any standard for that matter.

We should hold ourselves to a high standard, but the responsibility for holding anybody to any standard ends right there.

Here is what I’ve found: many people don’t hold themselves to a high standard and, therefore, go back on their word or don’t fulfill obligations they say they’ll fulfill.

If you try to hold someone like this to a high standard the result will usually be disappointment.

Now when someone tells me they’re going to do something I accept that and believe it. If it doesn’t happen it doesn’t bother me because I didn’t formulate a standard for them to live up to.

If they do, on the other hand, follow through, I have a better sense of ”oh, cool, this person holds themselves to a high standard. I’m going to enjoy working with / being friends with / hanging out with this person a lot.”

Here is where it gets tricky: if you have someone in your life who is consistently not following through, I would classify them as a toxic person. We really do become who we associate with and as you know, you should not associate with toxic people.

There’s an old saying, and I don’t know where I first heard it, but it goes something like this: “If you want to make a lot of money, take the average incomes of your five closest friends. That number is what you can expect as your income.” While I don’t necessarily believe in that particular statement it makes sense in a lot of other areas in life.

If you have people in your life who constantly go back on their words, it will become so normal to you that it will begin to creep into your own personality.

I know this is true because the reason I was once a greedy and unhappy person was because those are the types of people I associated myself with.

How do you avoid disappointment?

1) Don’t allow your happiness/fulfillment to come from outside forces that you have no control over.

If you can’t control a situation you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. It’s like playing the lottery with your happiness.

2) Associate with kick ass people.

Awesome people hold themselves to a high standard and won’t disappoint.


Special comment love request.

Do: write happy thoughts. :) For example, situations where everything worked out like you wanted. Or worked out unexpectedly but happily.

Don’t: write about people, things, or situations that have disappointed you.

Photo Credit


Srinivas Rao


I think the point that really hits home for me and I think for people who finally start to see the light is not to depend on things outside of yourself for happiness. For most my life in college I was highly dependent on the idea that somebody else would make me happy and it made miserable. It was only when I realized that I can be dependent on myself that things became significantly better. Once you learn to stop worrying about the things you have no control over you realize that worrying about anything is really kind of insane.


Thanks Srini! As usual, you make a great point: “Once you learn to stop worrying about the things you have no control over you realize that worrying about anything is really kind of insane.”

Steve Scott Site

Yes, yes, yes! Things definitely happen that are out of our control (you know, the cheese on the food is the cook’s fault!) but associating with people that repeatedly manage to disappoint isn’t a wise idea.

I have a few long-time friends that I put up with, even though they drive me crazy. I sat down and thought about it one day, and realized that it’s because they’re constantly late when we agree to get together, that always assume I can move mountains for them whenever they need a favor, and they expect me to come running at the drop of a hat simply because they asked me to.

It’s enough to make anyone angry, but the truth is I was allowing myself to be around these people. No one was forcing me to. It’s a whole lot easier to avoid disappointment when we stop putting ourselves into disappointing situations (i.e. hanging out with people like the ones I just mentioned.)


Thanks Steve. Keep hanging with awesome people. :)


I recently found myself surrounded by toxic people and situations. I know that having high expectations of others is just a recipe for disaster at some point. It still amazes me at how easy it is for people to go against their word or just live their lives so poorly, but I have come to understand that it is not my problem. I agree that you have to stay away from toxic people.


Hey Ruddystranger,

You’ve got it. It’s not your problem. Just live your life and seek out sweet people. :)



The hardest part is to not hold my employees (student workers) to the same standard I hold myself. I do the work of 2-3 people and do it all to a very high quality. It’s unreasonable to expect everyone to do that, especially someone making $7.50 an hour while also enrolled full-time in college classes, but that doesn’t stop me from slipping into that mindset sometimes.

I think it’s important to always give people the benefit of the doubt. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I want to do a worthless job today and be a frustration to others.” People generally want to do work they’re proud of. My job as a boss is to be proud of the work they do and help them excel–to push them just a bit so they stretch and find out they’re better than they thought. Intent is sometimes more important than results.


Great points Matthew. I’ll bet your students will appreciate you seeing it from their point of view. :)


“Don’t allow your happiness/fulfillment to come from outside forces that you have no control over.” Well said my dear. Im usually good at this, I really am. Except t to when it comes to love relationships… My ex-bf used to say: “who expect nothing wont be disappointed” I find myself having hard time to not expect any standard (and not, I didnt say high standard!) hehehe After all I hope that my future bf will be a “kick ass” guy!!! :D:D hehehe


Hi Dea,

Yes, it’s tough when it comes to love relationships. I don’t have all the answers. Or even most of the answers. :) Keep being awesome and you’ll attract awesome dudes!


Jeff Standing

Right on the money, Karol.

This is EXACTLY the epiphany I had…yesterday! If you rely on other people as your sole source of happiness, it’s easy to be let down because their actions are beyond your control.

I like the line from Brother Ali’s “Babygirl”:
“Only one who can grant happiness is ME.”


Thanks Jeff! Glad to see we’re thinking on the same wave-length. :)


Very nice post indeed. not everyone is able to meet your standards, but that doesnt mean they dont give all they got:).

However, dissapointment is also a bit between the ears.I believe if i stay optimistic and keep trying, i will eventually get there.



Yessir. If you keep at it you will eventually get wherever it is you want to get. :)


Jeanie Witcraft

There was the time I let go of most expectations and took an 8 day road trip through California/Nevada…and came out a changed woman.
The one bit of disappointment I had was when I looked at the man I loved in the dying rays of the sun over Lake Tahoe and whispered, “I love you…”
and got a sad, knowing gaze for my vulnerability.

He’s still pretty awesome, even if he is a too independent, rtw vegan who couch surfs through Thailand, India and South America. That description is sounding too familiar in my life these days. :)

This post is about something I counsel people over frequently “The only thing in life you can control is your reaction to stuff.” Your words, as usual, have a way of demanding that I pull the plank out of my eye before commenting on the splinter in someone else’s.


“Your words, as usual, have a way of demanding that I pull the plank out of my eye before commenting on the splinter in someone else’s.” :) Thanks Jeanie!

Sarah St John

What a great reminder that just like doing spring cleaning in your home, you should do relationship spring cleaning as well. I have done this from time to time during my life and while the process can be sad, the results are an overwhelming relief. I think that until you distance yourself from negative influences, you might not even realize how much it’s draining and affecting you. I especially liked this comment – “I know this is true because the reason I was once a greedy and unhappy person was because those are the types of people I associated myself with.” Maybe figuring out where our lives are going wrong is as simple as looking at the people around us and where their lives are going wrong? And thanks for reminding us that everyone is on a journey and we shouldn’t judge where they are on their path, even if it doesn’t match where we are on our path.


Hi Sarah,

Wow, thank you for this: “… everyone is on a journey and we shouldn’t judge where they are on their path, even if it doesn’t match where we are on our path.” You put it much better than I did. :)



Hola Karol,
Mike here again. I hear you loud and clear on this excellent point. I also set myself high standards and am my own biggest critic and often find myself being let down by others who seem happy to sleepwalk through life – I think it is Chris Guillebeau who refers to this as ‘The normalisation of mediocrity’ .

I have recently made a major life changing decision to pursue my dreams – if you want something, go out and grab it as no one is going to do it for you.

I hope the German is going well, I am working hard on my Español!

Keep up the awesome work



Thanks Mike! I’m not familiar with “the normalisation of mediocrity” but I will have to look into it. :) Thanks for that.



I finally learned this well myself in the last year or so. It changes everything. I think women in particular are socialized to get happiness from others, especially the men in their lives. Breaking free from this is huge. And so worth it! My dear friends became dearer and what others thought suddenly mattered a lot less.


Thank you Elizabeth! This is such a great statement: “My dear friends became dearer and what others thought suddenly mattered a lot less.” Your close friends and family are definitely the people who truly matter.


This sounds really good, and is also easy to practice. Mastery is another matter, but easy to practice. Mastery will come with that practice. Thanks.


Mastery takes time. And I’m not sure something like this can necessarily be mastered. But it can be honed. :)


This is very true and is a pretty important part of Buddhist teachings (I am not Buddhist, but I do have an understanding of it). This audio talks about it in a really profound and simple way.


Thanks for the link Scott. Downloading … :)


@scott, thank you for the link! :D


Oh boy! Did I ever have to learn this one the hard way myself. I realized that the chasm, and at times conflict, lies mostly in the difference of perspectives and the personal rules that each person chooses to live by.

And it is, like you said, not just a matter of letting go of those unreasonable expectations, but also being aware of the company you are keeping and making changes if necessary. This post reminded me of this piece I did awhile back:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there. – Rumi


That’s an interesting piece Shana! It’s kind of a mind-map only not. :) Thank you for sharing.


This is great stuff!
Unfortunately, I am the ultimate sinner…
I have been struggling with this very thing for a while. I hold myself to a very high moral standard and work ethic. Sadly, I seem to expect others to do the same. I do my best to avoid toxic people and to ignore their below average ethics. Okay… okay, I admit my quilt. Now the next step… letting go of the things I have no control over.


Hey CHD, everybody’s morals and ethics are different. It’s not a bad thing and you shouldn’t be sad. Just acknowledge it and move on. :)


Funny think this kinds of posts most of the times resonate in ourselves in a way you can never plan. Thank you!


You’re welcome Pau!

Erin S.

Excellent. The day you take full responsibility for your own happiness, you let go of giving other people the power to disappoint you or make you happy.

Other people are on their own journey. We each walk in all the light we have. Some of us have more light than others, depending on our experience level. You can’t drag someone down your path. It pisses them off and stresses you out.

Life happens, planes are delayed, it rains, the baked vegetables needed a little more salt. So what. Yet we see people giving those stupid little things the power to send their blood pressure through the roof and ruin their day. Besides, since this is a journey and not a destination, your inconvenience may be a divine appointment.


Hey Erin! Good to see you back around here. :)

I agree with everything except that last sentence. ;)

James Schipper

This is one of the things I actually have learned (most of what I learn is that I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did). Life is too short for negative/toxic people or things. I was most toxic to myself for some time. Spending it irritated with silly things outside my control is no fun at all.


“most of what I learn is that I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did” :) I feel like that too. It happens to most people who are a constant quest for improvement.

Thanks James!


I enjoyed this article
I got this quote from somewhere:
“You cannot change others but you can change yourself”
It should be good to be able to make wiser decisions for ourselves; to choose who we hang out with, to choose positive things in life for the better
Thanx Karol

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