When You Don’t Get Exactly What You Want

Have you ever had an expectation in a situation that wasn’t met the way you wanted it to or envisioned it? You expected x to happen and instead y happened. How did you feel about that? Disappointed, frustrated, maybe upset? Did you focus on what went wrong instead of what went right?

Guess what? You’re normal!

So, what can you do when you find that you’re focusing on what went wrong in a situation?

  1. Recognize you’re feeling that way, that it’s normal and OK
  2. Decide to focus on what went right
  3. Make a list of what went right

It’d be easy enough for me to stop writing there, but I thought you might want to know what prompted this topic. You see, yesterday I ran errands. I had a list of stores and things to get and off I went that morning. I arrived at the first store – an inviting, small and homey shop run by a very nice woman – and told her what I was looking for. She had something similar, but not exactly what I wanted. I had already looked in a few stores for what I wanted, couldn’t find it and I was sure I would have better luck at a small store specializing in what I was looking for. The woman was very frank with me and said I’d probably not find exactly what I was looking for and offered some other really good suggestions.

I decided what I wanted and reached my hand into my purse to pay AND didn’t have my wallet! It was sitting at home next to my computer. I shared this with her and said I’d return in the afternoon. Knowing I traveled about 30 minutes to her store, she offered to ring up my items, send me home with them and I could mail her a check! So, I thanked her, we chatted and I left her my business card and headed home with my new purchases – the rest of my errands on hold for another day because I had no wallet.

On my way home I found myself with one feeling and two thoughts around the previous hour’s events. What do you think the feeling and thoughts were?

Well, I felt disappointed because (1) I didn’t find exactly what I wanted and (2) I had to cut my errands short because I left my wallet at home. Interesting right? Out of everything that happened in a fairly brief period of time that was what I left with.

This is pretty common; you focus on what went wrong or not as planned instead of everything that went right. In the past it would have taken me a day or two to notice that I focused on what went wrong  (if I noticed it at all) and then beat myself up because I was so wrong to focus on that.

However, I feel it doesn’t serve me to stay disappointed and upset, so I followed the steps I outlined above. (1) I acknowledged that I was disappointed and that it’s OK to feel that way and then (2) reviewed the situation for other ways to feel about the morning and (3) listed what was good about the morning’s events:

  • The alternate suggestions that were offered were extremely helpful and things I hadn’t thought of before, lots of value right there.
  • If I ever have any problems with the items I purchased I can go back to the store or call her for suggestions (you don’t get that kind of personalized help at most major chain stores)
  • She allowed me to walk out of the store with over $70 in merchandise that I hadn’t paid for – with only a business card and a promise that I would mail her a check – so I could save an hour of my time later
  • If I choose to I can continue to look for exactly what it is that I want without feeling stressed about it because I have a very good alternative
  • It was a GORGEOUS day out and because my errands were cut short I was able to take a more scenic route home and enjoy the sunny fall day

Go ahead and try this next time you notice you’re focusing on what went wrong. Your mood will change – mine did.

Try it and let me know how it goes in the comments!