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3 Ways to Bounce Back from Setbacks When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned

When emotions are raw, it’s hard to bounce back from setbacks, but practicing these three things will make it easier because you choose how you react.You pin your hopes on getting that promotion, being hired for your dream job, or taking a relationship to a strong commitment. You’re nervous because you question whether you’re ready. You’re scared to step out of your comfort zone, but it’s exhilarating to think this could be your future! And then… you get the news you didn’t get it. It feels like you’ve been punched and you can’t breathe. How do you bounce back from setbacks like these?

It takes having a system in place for handling disappointment. It makes sense to plan for a disaster before it happens because once you’re in the middle of it, you won’t be able to think clearly. The same is true of life setbacks. They are going to happen, so if you have a practiced way of handling small setbacks, you’ll be able to handle large setbacks more easily. 

What system(s) do you have in place right now for handling setbacks?

A. Numb It Approach. When life throws you a curve ball, do you withdraw and refuse to try again? That’s a common and normal reaction to the pain you’ve experienced.

When your feelings are fresh and raw, you might want to eat a quart of ice cream, knock back a few drinks, binge-watch videos, or curl up in bed. This numbs the pain, but it’s not helpful if you default to these for days on end.

B. Feel and Learn Approach. Breathe deeply, become calm and aware of what’s going on inside. Feel your feelings. What are you feeling in your body? Can you name your feelings? Use mindful self-awareness and curiosity, without judgment,  to dig deep into your reaction to the situation.

To further the learning process, call up a trusted friend who listens and gives honest feedback. A drive in the country, a hard workout at the gym, or a hike in the woods also helps you to process those feelings. 

The brief description of these two approaches is to help you slow down, be self-aware and make a choice instead of simply reacting. You can’t control the setback, but you do get to control how you react to it. Just know that this moment in time does not end your dream. You’ll be able to pursue it from another direction when it’s the right time. For now, try these three ways to bounce back from setbacks.

3 Ways to Bounce Back from Setbacks

1. Positive Self-talk

Someone shared with me Dr. Sian Proctor’s inspirational story of overcoming the Imposter Syndrome, which exemplifies how being aware of our internal talk and consciously shifting it is a life-changing skill. The things I appreciate about her story are:

  • She had a lifelong dream that seemed impossible to achieve,
  • She pursued activities that interested her, and although they seemed unconnected, they ultimately qualified her to take action when the opportunity arose to fulfill that dream,
  • She had negative self-talk but she chose to change it,
  • She began to focus on giving and being of service creatively without having any preconceived ideas of where it would lead her, and
  • When a second opportunity arose, she stepped forward, took the risk, and made her dream come true.

When a setback happens, we tend to think, “They found me out. I knew I wasn’t qualified. Who was I fooling?” Therefore, I’ve written two articles that will help you handle this negative reasoning more positively. 

A negative mindset resolves into two related but distinct patterns…one called “Inner Critic” (the part of you that reviews your past performance and judges what you do as “not good enough”) and the other called “Core Shame” (the part of you that has experienced deep pain in the past and it convinces you that you as a person are worthless).

Be happy and proud that you’re an emotional being with values, needs, and wants. Learn to honor these so you can feel whole. Explore and identify how your “Inner Critic” is trying to protect you from pain, and then accept its direction as it motivates you toward excellence. 

Our self-talk results from our feelings for ourselves, so this leads us to another part of the process of bouncing back from setbacks…

2. Love Yourself Unconditionally

Learning to love yourself unconditionally is a process you can master with practice. Just realize that it’s taken a lifetime to be where you are today. And it will take time to retrain yourself to come from a place of self-compassion and love.

However, when you do learn to love yourself unconditionally you can:

  • Be the real you and feel comfortable in your own skin.
  • Be proud of yourself for the amazing gifts you have to offer.
  • Feel more empowered and energized to take advantage of new opportunities.
  • Find more inner strength to stand up for yourself and what you believe in.
  • Be more focused and productive because you can ask for what you want and need.
  • Be more resilient in the face of challenges and persist despite obstacles.
  • Bounce back from “failure” and suffer less from stress.
  • Find your best sense of well-being and happiness.
  • Connect with others and build warm, positive relationships.

Loving yourself unconditionally starts with understanding yourself, and that’s a process of peeling back the layers. Be willing to experience pain or discomfort and accept without judgment your emotions and feelings. This takes practice and persistence, but it gets easier. And you’ll find it greatly diminishes the pain over time.

Be patient. Persevere and trust the process. Self-care and self-love don’t always look like pampering. Sometimes it is about updating the way you think and talk about yourself.

3. Learn, Adjust, and Keep Going

One of the best ways to motivate yourself is by developing an “Inner Coach”. You can retrain your brain to analyze your feelings, sort out what’s true and what isn’t, and focus on the positive in every experience. If you want to deepen your relationship skills with yourself and others, please contact me and schedule a 30-minute free consultation to see if one of my services is the right fit for you. And be sure to subscribe to my newsletter, because each issue will help you deal with what you’re facing today.

Thank you for the photo Jakob Owens


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