Sometimes, things work out. You get a job, you get promoted, you score a date, you win a client, you hit the jackpot.

Other times, well, things don’t go quite as planned.

This past summer I signed up for a half-marathon training group. I had it all mapped out. I would run four times a week, train rigorously, and on race day I would cross the finish line in two hours flat. Little did I know that things were destined to turn out differently. Two months into training after a long, slow run, my knee gave out. The next day I could hardly walk. My entire upper leg was sore and I had a searing pain in my knee. Over the coming weeks the truth sunk in: no more race, no more running, no more victory.


Your own disappointment may come in the form of a breakup, a cancelled vacation, an unplanned sickness or an unforeseen rejection. Whatever it may be, you’ve hit a setback and now you’re stuck.

When things don’t go as planned, here’s how to move forward:

Be Mad & Miserable
It sucks. It really sucks. You’re bummed. You’re glum, and there’s no denying that you are furious. You had your heart set on something and now it feels like your life is in shambles. It’s ok. It’s healthy to acknowledge your true emotions rather than fighting them back or pretending they don’t exist. If you need to mope around, complain or cry, do that … for a little while.

Move On
There is only so long that you can sit and stew in the muck. If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re sick of obsessively churning the details over and over in your head, you know it’s time to move on. It can help to shift your thinking and put things in perspective. Could there be another opportunity in the future for you? Is there a way your experience could work out for the better? Give yourself the permission to dream again. Start researching what could be next rather than obsessing over what wasn’t.

Get Motivated Again
Once you start dreaming, set your sights on that something new. Something completely different. What excites you? Define it. Do something that brings you to a different place and that moves you out of your old mentality. When you move forward, even in small steps, your setback will move to the back of your mind. It will slowly begin to loose the power it once had.

Since my injury I’ve started thinking about tackling a swimming race and rejoining an ultimate Frisbee league (when my injury heals, of course). At some point in the future, I would like to train for a half-marathon again. My hopes have not been dampened for good.

If you’ve been caught off-guard by an unexpected change of events, it may be time to make peace and move on. You never know what amazing accomplishments may be waiting just around the bend.

When has a disappointment in your life led to something unexpectedly better?

Image via Chelsie Autumn Photography


  1. After being rejected from my ‘reach’ university I was disappointed to have to go to an affordable, albeit well regarded, college in my state. Making the decision to go to The College of New Jersey has been one of the best of my life! I am in challenging classes, friends with amazing people, working in a dynamic job, and being well prepared for the future. Although I used to constantly wonder what would have happened if I had gone to the other school, I now nearly never think about it because I am happy where I am.

    Alyssa J Freitas

  2. After a year of working, saving, and preparing I finally took a leap of faith and moved back to the city of my dreams. Just a few short weeks after my arrival in Paris I received news that instead of staying for a few years like I had planned, I would only (legally) be allowed to stay for a few months. This was devastating. My hopes, my dreams, my preparation, all lost and to something completely out of my control. I was crushed. It took tears and time but now I see the good in this sudden change of events. I have no time to waste. There are things I want to do, see, and experience here and now my time is limited. Therefore, I must make the absolute most of it. I have a blank slate. I have been given the opportunity to move forward and create a life somewhere else. I would never have had that chance had I not been disappointed, had things gone according to plan. The real struggle was in the acceptance of this abrupt change, but there is beauty in the unexpected, patiently waiting for you to realize its presence, you just need to know where to look.

  3. A few months ago I submitted my portfolio for a company I longed working on for like always, after months of waiting it didn’t turned out and I was rejected (politely of course). I felt horrible, on top of that my hormones were making a fuzz in me and I felt even worst, my world kinda went black there for a second. I know when I’m like that that is momentary and it will pass, so I took the time to feel bad and take it out of my system. After my period struck I felt much better, my hormones calmed down and I already had taken all the dissapointment out of me. By that weekend I got a job offer in a proyect that I’m currently loving! On top of that doing this kind of proyect was the reason that I decided to follow this profession. I haven’t given up on working in that company though, but I now know it will happen when I’m ready and when the universe thinks I am. In the meantime I’m enjoying the opportunities I have now, and I’m very grateful for them.

    Beautiful article by the way!

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