How to Rebound When Your Expectations Aren't Met


Sara prided herself on her ability to pull out a power drill and measuring tape to complete small home improvement projects. She was always pleased with her efforts. Until the day she wasn’t.

Sara had recently moved to a new apartment and was excited to get her bedroom settled. She lived in a subterranean apartment before, so window coverings weren’t as important. In this new apartment she’s on the 4th floor with two big beautiful windows in her bedroom that needed curtains.

Sara purchased curtain rods and curtains that coordinated well with the rest of the room. She was excited to get the curtains hung so that she had some privacy and greater control of the sunlight streaming through the windows.

Full Steam Ahead

After work, Sara gathered her tools and supplies and dove into the project. She’d already learned the importance of wall anchors so that things like curtain rods would stay securely in place. The wall anchors for the first rod went in like a breeze. Sara was on roll and started installing the second rod. The first set of wall anchors went in just as she expected. She moved on to the last set of wall anchors and her roll came to a screeching halt.

Obstacle to Overcome

Surprisingly, this portion of the wall didn’t have the depth required for the wall anchors to be fully installed. Sara was determined however and kept working to make the anchors sink into their proper place. The more she struggled, the bigger the mess she made. Her inner voice told her to stop and regroup. But She. Is. Determined. Sara kept working until she made a big hole in her wall.

Sara dejectedly quit. Demoralized and at risk of her mood sliding into the doldrums, she quickly pivoted to salvage the evening.

Self-Care to the Rescue

Sara remembered some of the lessons she learned about self-care and decided immediately to do the following:

  1. Take a hot shower.
  2. Drink a cold glass of water.
  3. Light a candle.
  4. Wash the dishes in the kitchen sink.

Unmet Expectations

After some reflection, Sara realized she expected this home improvement project to go as smoothly as others have in the past. She also realized that her determination to cross this task off her list prevented her from taking a step back and reevaluating the problem and possible solutions.

Instead, she ended up with a big hole in her wall, only one curtain rod hung, and the risk of a bad mood replacing her excitement to improve her new bedroom.

Disappointment Rebound

All of us experience disappointment when expectations go unmet. How can you rebound? The first step is to ask yourself some questions as soon as you realize things are going south.

Start with asking yourself where the expectations came from. In Sara’s case, previous experience and the strong desire to get the task completed and off her to-do list created the expectations.

When expectations aren’t met, looking for someone or something to blame quickly follows the disappointment. Sara created her expectations, leaving no one else to blame but her determination and stubbornness.

Due to her previous success with home improvement projects, Sara didn’t feel the need to manage her expectations. She assumed this project would turn out like the rest. Now that she has the failed project, she can try to manage her expectations before jumping into the next one.

Sara quickly turned to some self-care practices to rebound from frustration and disappointment. She chose practices that tapped into some of her senses—touch and smell. Interestingly, she chose to wash the kitchen dishes because she believed it would offset the productivity she had expected from hanging the curtain rods. Washing the dishes became a satisfying substitute.

Regroup After a Break

Not surprisingly, Sara didn’t give up on hanging the curtain rod. She was so close to achieving the desired look and function of the window coverings. She let some time pass so her emotions could cool down and devised a new plan.

Before implementing the plan, she managed her expectations by acknowledging she might run into other challenges and that more time might be needed to complete the project.

Sara took her time, made smaller holes to snuggly accommodate the wall anchors, and opted not to use the last couple of anchors because the curtain rod seemed secure enough.

Sara proudly texted her mom (that’s me) with a picture of the newly hung curtains. Even though the feeling was delayed by challenges and unmet expectations, the satisfactions tasted just as sweet!

Wrapping It Up

You can rebound when your expectations aren’t met by asking yourself some important questions and taking some time to cool down and regroup.

For example, you can ask yourself:

  1. Where did the expectations come from? Unless you actively agreed to meet the expectations for someone else, you are the one who sets the expectations.
  2. Who is responsible for the expectations going unmet? It could be someone else, but make sure you dig deep to find your role in the unmet expectations. Good communication is one of the best ways to manage expectations ahead of time.
  3. What, if anything, did you do to manage the expectations before they weren’t met? When you’re not getting the results you expect, pause to ask yourself about the problem and possible solutions.
  4. What can you do to rebound from the frustration and disappointment? In a word, self-care!
  5. What can you do next time to manage expectations ahead of time? Before jumping in ask yourself when and where obstacles might arise. Brainstorm possible solutions just in case. If others are joining you, make sure to communicate clearly and concisely to help manage everyone’s expectations.

Unpacking expectations and their impact isn’t always easy. I’d love to know in the comments below how you manage expectations and the accompanying disappointment when they aren’t me.

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How to Rebound When Your Expectations Aren't Met

Karen Clark Salinas

I’m Karen Clark Salinas, and it’s my mission to help women live their full purpose (work + family) without sacrificing wellbeing. I want to be the coach I wish I’d had when I was a working mom. Someone to help me get unstuck and live my life more intentionally. Marriage, motherhood, chronic illness, divorce, remarriage, and caring for aging loved ones contribute significantly to my story. I know for sure that, with my support, you can pursue your professional dreams while raising a happy and healthy family.


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