A man’s failures imply judgment, not of circumstances,
but of himself.
(The Absurd Man)
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Setbacks happen to everyone. In fact, it is extremely improbable that you’re going to achieve all of your goals without a few setbacks. And you know what? That’s okay! Here are three ways to help you deal with life’s setbacks if and when they do occur.
#1: Acknowledge them.
Trying to sweep the setback under the rug, so to speak, is not healthy. Along with the setback being repressed and ignored, there are likely some feelings attached to that setback that are also being repressed or ignored. When you have a setback, whether it is picking up a cigarette, eating a food that you said you would give up, or skipping a workout, it usually helps to acknowledge the setback. Accept it for what it is. Acknowledge your feelings about it. What are they? Are you angry with yourself? Are you sad? Disappointed? Maybe you’re even feeling defiant: “I’m going to eat this cake because I deserve it.” Acknowledge any and all of your feelings associated with the setback. Once you have acknowledged the setback and the associated feelings, accept it all as normal. Don’t judge yourself. And then, let the feelings and the setback go.
#2: Examine them and learn from them.
Why did you have a setback? Was there something that set you up for failure? For example, if you were rushing around at lunchtime, and didn’t eat enough lean protein with your meal, your blood sugar spiked and then of course plummeted, leaving you with a craving for some tasty, sugary carbs which are probably not on your diet. Did a screwed up day at work or a fight with a friend send you straight to the drive-thru?
Examine what caused the setback and what can you do differently the next time around. In the previous example, you now know that you will suffer a setback unless you include some lean protein in your meals. This is empowering knowledge and will help you avoid this same setback the next time. Setbacks happen and they are not a total wash if you can learn something useful from them.
#3: Focus on the positive.
We all tend to judge ourselves based solely on our failures. You pull into the drive-thru or drive right past the gym on your way home. You toss the gym bag into the back seat where you can’t see it, and it won’t “bother” you. Five, ten, or even sixty minutes later there you are beating yourself up for making all of those little decisions. Let’s try a different approach. Rather than focusing on what you did wrong, consider what you did right today. Surely there was something you did right! There always is. Grab a pen and paper and write down everything that went right in your day today. Once you have that smile back on your face and are feeling good again, look ahead to tomorrow. Tomorrow is a chance to start over and do it right. Focus on the do-over.
What would you add to this short list of getting through setbacks in life?