Yes, it does suck at times. Failure, extreme setbacks, and unexpected events happen when you least expect any of it. One day your world is a beautiful thing, and the next day tragedy strikes. But many of life’s misfortunes have less to do with you and more to do with the waves of the world as it shifts through rapid change.
There is no such thing as a perfect plan. It’s what you do when the plan goes awry. You have to be careful not to reframe the moment with a negative perspective. If you make yourself a victim, the actions you take will be to garner sympathy and contribute to making you weak.
A weakness is like a dent in your armor, and your enemies will sense this and move in for the kill. Stay strong and ask the right questions.
- “What would be my best course of action to move past this?”
- “What’s next?”
- “Do I stay down or do I get up?”
When you suffer a setback, it is a natural inclination to feel like a loser. You lost and now you think you can’t recover. The climb back is too far, and you’ve been through so much.
You get two choices.
When you get knocked down the ladder, you have two choices and you need to choose one: 1. Get off the ladder altogether and give up on the climb. 2. Keep on climbing. Or you might find another ladder to climb. But whatever your choice is, if you give up on the path to ascension, you will surrender your default habit when things go bad.
You might fall back into your victim mindset of, “Life is not fair.” Who said it was fair? Playing fair is for people who expect everything to go the way they want it to. It doesn’t happen that way. Be sure your expectations are true and realistic.
Johnny Cash had it right when he said: “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”
What is a realistic expectation then?
That life isn’t fair. And that life is difficult.
If you’re having an easy life, maybe you aren’t pushing hard enough. Nothing should be easy when failing fast and driving your energy ahead to get to the next plateau. The climb up the mountain is the struggle; the peak is your victory, but it never ends there. You are never finished pushing on to that next phase.
8 Steps to Handle Setbacks
We can’t avoid running into barriers, but we can prepare for the worst. Knowing what to do, and being confident in your ability to act, is key. No matter what happens, you are a survivor and a thriver.
Here are the eight steps for dealing with setbacks:
#1 Do nothing. Step back. Breathe deeply. Absorb what has happened.
Take a day or two to absorb what happened. You’ll be tempted to beat yourself up. Your internal critical monster decides to speak up. But after that, push aside your emotional carnage and come to terms with what happened.
Regardless whose fault it is, that doesn’t matter. Do you want to focus on fault or solutions? During this phase I will meditate, focus on my thoughts, or listen to relaxing music to calm my mind.
#2 Accept what happened. Welcome the situation.
You lost money. Failed to get the contract. Gained weight instead of losing it. Someone you love left you.
Okay, now that you’ve had time to think it through, put an end to wishing you could change this. One of the first things we do when going through failure is fall into the trap of, “If only I had…”
Here is what that looks like:
- “If only I had…”
- Been kinder, she would have stayed.
- Been smarter, I could have made it work
- Been available, I would have seen it coming.
You want to succeed. Everyone does. But when you don’t, be welcoming to the situation even when it isn’t in your favor. You might be in a bad spot. You lost everything. The situation appears hopeless. Don’t rush ahead and make foolish decisions right away. When you are feeling frightened and panicked, that is when you need to step back, assess where you’re at, and take intentional action to move towards the place you want to be.
You are not going to undo the past. You can only influence tomorrow by making a decision in the now and taking intentional action.
Right now, welcome this experience into your life and move ahead with the next step that is…
#3 Shake off your feelings of failure. Stop dwelling.
The pity train has to end. If you’re still on it after a week, you need to get moving. While not every situation is going to require this step, you could be going through a mourning process or stuck. If you are dwelling on the mistakes you made and how you could have done this better, that is good.
Identify what that is, and implement your next action according to your plan. You don’t want to repeat the same mistakes, so knowing what you could do in the future to improve will accelerate your learning curve. You always learn faster by recognizing the better approach.
Right now, make a short list of two or three things you didn’t do that you could implement in the future.
#4 Identify your #1 supporter and meet this person.
Do you have a coach or mentor? Is there someone you can talk to? This is an important step. You might be an introvert and rarely talk to anyone, like I can be, but in times of crisis or setbacks, you should talk it through with someone. This is going to be your first step towards forming a new action plan.
Right now, write down this person’s name and a date by when you will meet them. Prepare a list of questions to ask and be open to the advice and suggestions they share.
#5 Accept NO excuses.
The internal monologue going to fill up your head with all the reasons why you should retreat. Take no excuses. This is your mind filling your thoughts with lies.
Your excuses sound like this:
- “I’ll try this again sometime when I’m not so tired.”
- “It was never meant to be.”
- “I’ll wait until I have enough money, more resources, more time…”
- “What will my friends/peers/parents think?”
- “I don’t have the energy for this anymore.”
You get the idea. The excuses you tell yourself is your mind’s way of deceiving you. Excuses are filled with the sounds of self-pity and victim mentality reasoning. Kill your excuses as soon as they crop up. Kill them before they kill you.
Here is what David Goggins, the bestselling author of Can’t Hurt Me, says about excuses: “Stop making excuses. Stop being a victim. Take personal responsibility. Hold yourself accountable. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. And finally, make your dreams come true.”
Right now, write down the excuses you are telling yourself. If you’re like me, you have a list of them that appear when everything is falling apart. Call these excuses out when they appear. Diminish the power of your excuses by taking a mental “hammer” and pounding them down to nothing.
#6 Create a plan. Ask yourself, “What’s next?”
This is the time to get unstuck and move. You are taking a step ahead and a step up into action. Put the wheels in motion. Make a list of first action steps. What are they? Now take the action step you can do today and get to work. Block off time if you have to. Commit one hour to nothing but working your plan. Don’t rely on anyone to show up to rescue you.
When you fail at something and you’re the only one standing with nobody else to lean on, you must support yourself. You can ask for help later, but don’t wait for a rescue boat that may never come. Ask yourself
- “What can I do right now?”
- “What’s next?” Do that action. After you check this off your list, ask yourself again: “What’s next?” You will never be stuck if you continue to move yourself in this direction.
- Ask. Act. Refresh and repeat.
Right now, identify the one thing you can do today. It could be as simple as sending an email to someone or just making the right decision. But do something. Avoid procrastinating and waiting for the situation to fix itself if there is action you can take.
#7 Focus on the Controllable(s).
So many events are beyond your control. There isn’t much you can do when people make their own decisions that impact your life. But you can control how you react to it.
Control what you can and focus on the situation you can influence. Life isn’t fair. No moaning or complaining. It isn’t fair, it never was, and it never will be.
This is the one thing nobody can ever take away from you: The freedom to take action and choose your attitude in any circumstance. If your business plummets because the economy crashed and people ran with their money, moaning about the economy and the unfairness of life won’t change anything. What can you influence in this situation?
How you decide to scale your business. Communicating with your customers. Invest your time in adding value to a situation instead of letting it rob you of energy. Many people get depressed when they focus on the event out of their control instead of the decision-making power they have.
Right now, focus on your controllable(s) and get to work.
#8 Recite your Fail Big mantra: “I am strong because I am challenged.”
It is the challenges of setbacks that form physical and mental toughness. Without them, you’re like a new shield that has never had the taste of battle. You can overcome and win by reciting words of power that lift you up. This silences the internal voices of shame and uncertainty. The ego doesn’t like to fail and it will let you know that.
Keep a list of your favorite positivity quotes on hand. Your mantra that you use to get through those Fail Big times, you want to use that now. You can harness your internal power by speaking to it in your own words instead of the words it tries to feed you.
Right now, write down on paper your absolute favorite positivity quote or mantra. Make a short list of quotes and read this out loud for five minutes in the morning. Read your mantra again before sleep.
This Is Not The End
It’s never the end. If you catch yourself saying, “Now it’s over,” get a grip on your reality. A failure is never the end game. It is the step towards something else. The end is for people who are giving up and accepting this as the final outcome. If your dream is to start a business and that business fails, will you give up and go back to your old job you hate? If you do, then it really is the end.
Right now, tell yourself, “This is not the end. It isn’t over until I say it is.”