The celebration of the London Olympic Games will soon be over. The winners, some crying with tears of elation, will return home with their medals to enjoy their newly acquired national status.

They are the ones who will have worked tirelessly for many years to finally enjoy the results of their achievements.

There were also, believe it or not, some tears from journalists, caught up in the emotion of the winners — and also the losers who just failed to make the grade who feel they have let down their country.

Although we are told that it is the competing that is the most important, and not necessarily the winning, we must not underestimate the impact that disappointment will have on each competitor.

Managing disappointment

Of course, we know that everyone manages disappointment differently. Some athletes may feel that their failure to win a medal is to have absolutely failed their friends, family and trainers whilst for others it may merely increase their determination to do better next time.

Those who fail to win may feel angry and cross at their lack of concentration or physical ability to be the best, and while they congratulate the winners, they are secretly having to manage not only their pain but also their feelings of disappointment for themselves and for those that have supported them over so many months and years of training. 

These are the people that I think of at this time.  Of course, for every winner there is a loser and we cannot all be champions: life is full of disappointments which we have to manage whether we are Olympic competitors or corporate managers. We all have dreams and aspirations not yet realised.

Illness, in ourselves or our family, may get in the way of us achieving our full potential. Hopes are often dashed and life, at times, just seems so unfair.

Life is not a straight line — there will always be ups and downs along the way. We cannot always sail on the crest of a wave. Situations do not always work out; our vision does not always become a reality and too often, we don’t come home with the gold, or even the bronze!

We are not all Olympic competitors, but in one form or another, we will have had to manage disappointment and the powerful emotions that it releases. It happens to all of us, rich or poor, old or young, man or woman.

It is a fact of life that will happen to you and although it cannot be avoided, how you deal with it will determine the effect it has on your life and the extent to which you can control that effect.

Disappointment is a combination of two things:  your expectations and perceptions of an event and its actual resolution.

Here are some ways to help you to move on:

  • Treat the event as a moment to consider what you can learn about yourself from the situation. Reflect and take the learning out of the situation so that you can use it for another time.
  • Allow yourself space to grieve and sufficient time to manage the loss. It is important to acknowledge that it did happen, to acknowledge the disappointment and to move on.   
  • Take responsibility for your own actions and don’t blame others. Whilst, other people or factors may have influenced how a particular situation unfolded, there  will be ways in which you can modify those influences, next time. 
  • Accept that change is an integral part of life, both in business and in the home. Do your best to believe in the fact that how you manage change will determine the type of person that you are.
  • Even though you may have experienced disappointment, don’t forget to say ‘Thank you!’ to those who were there for you and supported you on your journey. Be grateful for what you have and for those whom you have around you: your family, friends and colleagues.
  • Life is a journey for all of us.  Tears of joy and sometimes of disappointment will happen. The sooner, you come to terms with the pain, the sooner you can move on. These disappointments will have been yesterday but today, and everyday, is a new beginning!

The author is a BBC Guest Broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.