Today someone I care about very much suffered a setback. It reminded me of all the setbacks in my life. And I thought I’d share a few with you.
- I failed two classes in high school: Social Studies and German. The first because of lack of effort the latter because of a personality conflict I couldn’t overcome.
- My junior year of high school I didn’t make the wrestling team.
- My senior year I didn’t get a very good part in the play.
- I fell in love with a girl in college and spent the whole summer writing love letters to her in England. She broke up with me within two weeks of returning to school.
- I dropped out of college in 2003 with only 2 credits left between me and a diploma.
- The first company I started failed miserably and lost over $10,000.
- I got fired from my first touring job with the Gin Blossoms because I got into a fight with the drummer.
- I probably would’ve gotten fired from my second touring job, if I hadn’t decided to quit.
- Despite catching my boss stealing and standing up to her, I lost my job and she kept hers.
- At the monastery, I lost my temper and got into ‘trouble’ on many occasions.
- I lost the first job I got when I left the monastery as a preschool teacher because I got into a disagreement with my boss.
- I have lost more clients than those I currently train.
While all these setbacks were painful. Each of them taught me something very important. Many of them even led to huge shifts in the way I live my life.
When I look back on these setbacks, I realize that they were more important than many of my successes.
Take for example the job I lost after catching my boss stealing. It was because of that setback that I was open to trying meditation. It also meant I had enough time and space to move to the monastery.
Another example is how I lost my job working as a pre-school teacher. If I hadn’t lost that job, I may never have tried out personal training or started writing this blog.
Though each of these set backs seemed like the worst thing possible.
Each of them became a huge pivot point in my life. Here are the steps I’ve used to overcome and grown from my setbacks.
It’s important to let yourself mope a bit. Setbacks can be painful or even gut wrenching. Let yourself feel that pain. If you let that pain in and accept it, it will move along more quickly.
This doesn’t mean you should beat yourself up. If just means taking some time to lick your wounds. Decide how long you need, ideally 3 – 5 days, and then set a deadline to stop moping.
2. Listen For and Acknowledge Your Jackals, but Don’t Believe Them.
Any setback will likely bring up some self-critical thoughts. It’s helpful to notice and name these thought patterns. I use the term Jackal for this, but you could use anything that works for you, like gremlin, inner critic, or Reginald.
For example I have a, “You’ll never be as successful as your sister jackal,” a “Your such a screw up jackal,” and a “Your not a good person jackal.”
Whenever I notice these Jackals, I name them. I notice what they have to say. Then I do my best to let them go. I know from experience that if I listen, but don’t buy into what they have to say, they eventually fade.
3. Take Action
As soon as your moping period is over it’s important to do something. But it’s easy to get caught up in trying to figure out the ‘right’ thing to do. The answer to this is simple: Anything.
Do the first constructive thing that occurs to you especially if it involved leaving your domicile.
My favorite thing to do after I’ve suffered a set back is to set up meeting with as many people I know. Over the years, these meetings have led me to getting amazing jobs, doing amazing things, and discovering new parts of myself.
The trick is that only 1 out of 10 of these meetings will yield something so it’s important to keep them. You never know where the right inspiration or referral is hiding.
As soon as you have taken action and started to come out of your mope mindset, it’s time to reflect. Every major set back I’ve suffered held a little lesson for me. But I needed some space before I could see it.
Take some time and write out what you learned paying special attention to any faulty assumptions, missing skills, and lack of planning. Very often, this is where I’ve discovered some very valuable bits of information.
If you’re having a hard time, don’t be afraid to talk this step over with someone. Especially if they can ask good questions and offer some perspective
5. Celebrate Small Victories
As you back on track, celebrate every small victory you have. These small victories will provide essential energy to keep you moving forward. And remember no victory is too small.
If you get out of bed at a reasonable hour, do a little happy dance. If you spend 10 mins online to looking for work, put your hands up and say, “I’m Awesome.” This little bit of positive reinforcement can help keep your sprits up when the future feels daunting.
6. Practice Gratitude
No matter how bad your set back there is always something to be grateful for. It may be small and it may pale in comparison to what you lost, but its essential you focus your mind on that gratitude.
Setbacks can be a great opportunity to appreciate the blessings life has to offer.
7. Be Humble
At some point, your set back will fade and you will return to a state of normalcy. When you are on your way up it’s important that you practice humility.
You never know when a set back could be around the corner so take time to honor and appreciate where you are now and how you’ve grown.
Setbacks are a part of life. They have happened to all of the people I admire and to many intellectual greats as well. But what makes the difference is how you accept and learn from those setbacks.
Setbacks often offer us harsh lessons, but it’s those lessons that stick with us. Pain always cuts deeper than joy and that’s what makes setbacks so powerful.