Do You Have a Setback Strategy?
So there were a few potholes in my road to success this week. Things didn’t get done on time. People who pledged to help didn’t. I bungled up a couple of the things and I didn’t sleep well. Not one single night. And my coping skills involved some emotional eating and irrational tears.
But even in the midst of these challenges – none of which were huge, scary problems, I’m grateful to say – but all of which challenged my intellect, my time and my creative problem-solving abilities solve various unfamiliar problems – I knew I could manage. I never lost total perspective. So instead of sitting in the ick, I was able to take inspired action every day to move through it.
This is because I have a Setback Strategy in place. I developed a plan during some of the best, easier, glowy happy kinds of days that provide a way out of the less-than-glowy moments. I put some ideas in place so when things felt difficult, I’d have a default pattern to fall back on. This keep rumination and panic at bay and allows for movement to overcome adversity.
And it’s worth thinking about your approach to difficulty before they actual cancel your favorite show, you run out of milk, the kid misses the bus and your boss is calling wondering where your project is about the same time your bank account is hacked.
Creating a Setback Strategy to Overcome Adversity
In my new book How to Live an Awesome Life (Viva Editions, 2015) I lay out the plan I use when I feel like things are too hard to handle.
Here are four of my favorite Setback Strategies:
Adopt a growth mindset. Research by the renowned Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck shows that when we believe, that with effort we can improve, we do.
It doesn’t always feel comfortable in the beginning because while we learn what we need to do to get through the upset our brains actually have to form new neuropathways to make those skills a habit. This feels hard as though we are not making any progress. But, you are. When you believe you can get better at something you will and that alone can help you persist when you feel like hanging it up.
Be accountable. When challenges and adversity hit it can feel hard and scary to own up to our role in the mess. But accountability is key to resilience. When you acknowledge your role in the challenge you are in position to change it. When you don’t see your part in the setback, you are stuck waiting on others to do something. Accountability leads to acceptance which provides the clarity and insight you’ll need to take action to move through the difficulty.
Create a new narrative. When we are buried in the frustration and fear that adversity can provoke it’s hard to remain optimistic, but you can change the story around what is happening and that can help you bounce back.
In research, social psychologist Gregory Walton asked students who were facing adversity to write about the experience as a way of helping future students. When they believed their letters would help others facing adversity they tended to have greater perspective and felt less alone. Write your own narrative. Reflect on what’s happening and describe the challenges and opportunities contained within and you’ll move through challenges with greater ease.
Connect with others. Too often we are so busy dealing with drama and putting out fires that we don’t seek the support we need to reboot and cope. This can leave us feeling sad and alone. When you are feeling challenged, seek out supportive family members and friends or find a support group of others who know what you are going through. Find those people who can buoy you during difficult times.
And, remember, others have bounced back and overcome adversity and challenge and with a setback strategy in place, you can too.