Disappointment. It’s an emotion familiar to us all, but did you know it can also be a sign that opportunities are right around the corner? After all, some of the most incredible discoveries in history were made by mistake.

Perhaps your exam results or ATAR weren’t what you had hoped for. Or you were certain you’d get that job that just slipped by. Or maybe someone close to you really let you down.

With the help of psychologist Minh Nguyen, here are five steps to help you bounce back gently, or even turn your disappointments into something amazing.

 Two female students comforting, dealing with disappointment

5 ways to bounce back from a setback

1. Be kind to yourself

It’s important to address your disappointments, but first you need to take care of you – in mind and body.

Psychologist Minh Nguyen's advice:

Look after yourself by exercising, eating and sleeping well. Talk to someone you trust about your feelings.

2. Surround yourself with good people

Choose positive vibes and positive people who validate your feelings and recognise your contributions and hard work.

You may benefit from surrounding yourself with people who can help affirm your efforts. Spend time with people who encourage a positive mindset, so that you focus on building on your strengths.

3. Get your feel-good flowing

It’s time to get moving and motivated. You’d be amazed at how inspiring a little exercise, a good belly laugh, or spending time on an activity you enjoy can be.

Create a positive spiral of activities that release the ‘happy’ endorphins in your brain and distributed throughout your nervous system, by exercising, spending time with loved ones, engaging in an activity that you enjoy, and accomplishing an achievable task that you feel proud of.

4. Take this as a learning experience

Think about how babies learn to walk – one of the best ways to learn is through failing, getting up and trying again. Once you figure out what you can learn from your disappointment, you can begin to set new goals and start down a new path.

Reflect on what your strengths are and what you could improve. Develop Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Time-bound (SMART) goals of what you can improve. Review in relevant timing.

5. Get back in the game

Now it’s time to figure out your next move. Trying a different tact is a great way to start.

For example, if your ATAR score wasn’t what you had hoped for, why not look into a study pathway? Chat to a career adviser or read about your options and discover the many ways to achieve your goals ­­– that you may not have known existed!

 Heart-shaped hands on sunset

Accept help, surround yourself with positive people and soon you'll be back on your feet.

Get inspired by the greats!

Consider that some of the most successful people in history attribute their achievements to their failures. They definitely offer a lot to think about:

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.
– Nelson Mandela

There is no such thing as failure…It is just life trying to move us in another direction.
– Oprah Winfrey

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
– Albert Einstein

Take it from the greats like Nelson Mandela: you can pick yourself up and keep going!

What else can you do?

Find out why you should choose VU – our revolutionary VU Block Model that sets you up for success, our flexible pathways, and courses.

Talk to one of our experts about your study options: Chat online with one of our staff.

You can also access support services, including counselling, psychology and mentoring.

And if you're interested in becoming a support for others, discover psychology courses at VU, from TAFE to degree and postgraduate studies.

About Minh Nguyen

A psychologist who has worked extensively with young people and children in schools, and supporting new parents, Minh Nguyen is a graduate of the Master of Applied Psychology (Community Psychology) at Victoria University.