Turn a Setback Into a Fast-Forward

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Turn a Setback Into a Fast-Forward

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Don’t lose your cool when an unexpected setbacks prevents you from achieving your goal. Get tough.

What to Do Following a Failure

You expected to get married by a particular age, but instead you ended a long-term relationship. You prepared to run your first race, but the event was canceled. You’ve been vegan for two weeks, but what happens next? When you realize a bean burrito contains cheese, you are already halfway through eating it.

Unexpected obstacles of any size might leave you feeling frightened, overburdened, and even paralyzed. Why? When things don’t go your way, you could feel out of control.

One negative event might lead to a downward spiral of negative thoughts. You become anxious for anything else that might be terrible, you start to doubt yourself in new ways, and you internalize, even catastrophize, the situation. What I mean is? You spiral.

But you’re not required to. Before you determine you can’t handle the circumstance at hand, a stressor hasn’t become unbearable. You therefore hold absolute power. Setbacks can be viewed and handled in a variety of ways; you can even utilize them as a springboard for further achievement. How? Read on.

Feel all the feels.

Don’t be sad. Allow yourself to feel your feelings so that you can move through them.

Research even suggests that correctly identifying your feelings can hasten the rebound process. For this reason, we advise conducting a web search for “list of emotions” and using a resource with at least 50 examples to assist you figure out how you’re feeling. You may say, “Oh, what I’m actually feeling is desperate,” or “What I’m feeling is despair,” instead of lumping feelings into these big categories of “good” or “bad.” You can psychologically process what has happened and recover more quickly by identifying that particular emotion and assuring yourself that it’s OK to feel it.

Accept and act.

If you’ve ever performed improv, you’re familiar with the “Yes, and” rule: You must always accept and build upon whatever is introduced into a scene. “The whole argument breaks apart if someone brings up aliens and you try to refute it. The same holds true for handling letdowns. If you stop thinking and say, “No way,” you become stuck. You can get back in the game if you acknowledge what has happened and decide what you can do next.

Another effective strategy for boosting grit is to reframe problems in this manner. Gritty people often succeed because they can bounce back quickly from failure. They take lessons from bad situations.

Highlight what’s going well.

Positive emotions can build momentum in the same way that pessimism does. Thinking of unexpected benefits to your new circumstance — for example, a canceled race means you may run a virtual one along a route of your choice, or moving in with your parents means you get to save more money for a nicer place — can help you get on a positive track. Both activities give you the self-assurance and drive you need to turn things around and start again.

Keep in mind that you must acknowledge your negative feelings before you can examine the situation objectively and identify the positives that may enable you to get past your current situation.

Reboot your goal.

Your motivations and goals will determine how you adjust. You might need to adjust your schedule, so you decide to go on that trip with your buddies next year rather than this year. To get back out there, you might need to set up a timetable that you can follow, such as organizing one date per week. No matter how you reset, the essential is to list both the new goal and the precise steps you’ll take to achieve it.

Ultimately, while it may not appear so in the moment, unexpected setbacks might actually provide you a performance advantage, leading to what psychologists call “post-traumatic growth.” Researchers from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management examined junior scientists who had failures early in their careers in a 2019 study. The scientists continually outperformed their contemporaries ten years later, generating articles that were cited more frequently and had a greater effect in their profession. According to lead study author Dashun Wang, PhD, one notion is that adversity can instill strength and commitment. According to Wang, “the scientists appeared to become a better version of themselves” as a result of those difficult times.

Here’s to using adversity to your advantage.

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