The experience of stepping forward, suddenly realizing the floor is lower than you expected, and having to scramble to rebalance before you fall is a good analogy for what it’s emotionally like to feel a sharp sense of disappointment.

We all know how uncomfortable it is to feel disappointed with things, others, and ourselves. But as with all things in life, there are lessons you can use for self-improvement and growth that help you handle the situation and move forward.

Let’s start by looking at key causes.

Your Joy Was in The Process or Journey

It’s possible to think that getting a promotion, having a specific skill, or arriving at a destination will make you happy. However, for some people, it was the creative work, learning, or journey that gave pleasure.

The good news is that once you realize what truly made you happy, you’ll be able to do more of it without reaching a disappointing end.

Your Expectations Didn’t Match Reality

If you thought that you’d lose 20 pounds in 3 weeks and felt defeated when you only lost 3, the problem isn’t that you didn’t make good progress, it’s that your expectations weren’t realistic.

Fairytale idealization about relationships, careers, and “landmark” experiences are other examples of ways expectations and reality clash to create disappointment.

If you practice mindfulness and being present in the moment, you’ll slowly start experiencing the awe of day-to-day life while having fewer moments of wishing things were different.

You Wanted Something Else but Didn’t Realize It

Have you ever felt more disappointed than you expected when something didn’t work out the way you hoped it would?

The next time it happens, make some time to locate the reason.

Maybe the most appealing part of the job that fell through was the travel that went with it, and what you really wanted was more travel in your life. Maybe you associated playing the piano with spending time with a favorite aunt, and it was spending time with the aunt you wanted more than the ability to play.

You Tried to Give Someone Else Responsibility for Your Happiness

We sometimes convince ourselves that we aren’t happy or enjoying success because of someone else.

No relationship is ever going to make you happy if you aren’t happy alone. If you don’t like where you are in life, it’s up to you to change.

Accepting responsibility for your life is one of the most liberating things you’ll ever experience.

You’ll still have challenges to handle and details to figure out, of course, but taking action will feel far more rewarding than sitting around waiting for someone to rescue you (or wondering why someone isn’t).

Become the hero of your story. Live the life you’ve always wanted. And realize that when you’re in the midst of disappointment, there’s still time to reframe, create, and bring to life the hopes that the experience of feeling disappointed exposed and clarified.