Embracing accomplishments, working toward a set of goals and even having a “five year plan” are all admirable and valuable paths to achieving success. But what if you fail? What if something unexpected happens and derails the entire plan? Even the most positive and cheery of us can get knocked down and feel painfully discouraged.
Christine Hassler, best selling author of the book Expectation Hangover, is an expert on just that; that emotional and physical state one suffers from when things don’t go the way they have planned. She best explains this as:
“The myriad of undesirable feelings or thoughts present when one or a combination of the following things occurs:
- A desired result does not occur
- Things don’t turn out like you though they would or wanted them to
- You are unable to meet your personal and/or professional expectations
- An undesired, unexpected event occurs that is in conflict with what we want or planned.”
How to overcome an expectation hangover
According to Hassler, the symptoms of an expectation hangover are similar to those of hangover from alcohol, both physically and mentally. She sites depression, low self-esteem, difficulties in relationships, poor work performance, low motivation and even disconnection from one’s spiritual life as common symptoms of an expectation hangover.
Worse yet, so many of us are too busy running from the uncomfortable or even painful emotions of the expectation hangover that we often make rash decisions like jumping into a new relationship, quitting a job abruptly or even turning to addictions to ease the pain.
For most adults, these ineffective and even harmful ways of coping with an expectation hangover are the only thing they can think of to make it through. But as they say, when you know better you do better. Hassler’s book walks you through how to go from asking “Why is this happening?” to “What am I learning?” And the outcome of making this psychological and spiritual shift is truly life changing.
The generational lineage
But how do we, as parents, pass this on to our kids? Hassler points to parents’ proclivity to protect their children from failure and disappointment as a hurdle in preventing expectation hangover for our children. It is important that our children learn that not everything in life can be controlled, but our power lies in how we react to life’s circumstance.
Hassler explains, “For example, say your High School senior did not get into the college of her choice. Teach her that it’s OK to have feelings about it, it’s OK to be sad—but not forever! After feeling the feelings, empower children to ask “What am I learning from this? And how can I choose a response that does not make me feel like a victim?”
Hassler says a crucial part of teaching children to cope is also teaching them how to avoid an expectation hangover altogether. “For instance, teach them to make AGREEMENTS with people rather than expecting people to be a certain way.”
She isn’t arguing to let go of goals, though. Instead, Hassler says, “Teach them to pursue goals with HIGH involvement but LOW attachment—meaning go after their goals but do not make their emotional stability, sense of worth or happiness.”
Christine Hassler has not only written the best selling book Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life , but she also hosts an informative, heartfelt, and fun podcast “Over It and On With It” (available on iTunes) where she takes caller questions, works with clients, and provides a wealth of information to listeners.
You can find more information at her website and for the latest topics, interests and inspiration.