Three Easy Ways to Deal With Setbacks and Failures in Life

I am in the middle of a physical setback. Again. Does it ever feel like setbacks and failures are regularly scheduled in life? Like there is a bullshit calendar that keep track of your progress, and then- WHAM- a setback slams into your nearly perfect life and scatters all the pieces? Yea, I have my suspicions as well.

The definition of a setback: to slow, to hinder, to delay progress. Setbacks are not the same as failures, or defeats. Setbacks are minor on the bad things scale, they don’t require hospitalization or taking a third job to feed your family.

Maybe you feel like choosing to ignore a setback and accept the new limitation in your life. For example, with my current bicep tear, I could just wait for it to heal, and during that time let my goal of bench pressing slowly disappear.

Small Setbacks Can Have Huge Effects

And that is the HUGE cost of setbacks, they seem minor and yet, they can change the trajectory you have plotted out for your life. We all know the story of the Butterfly Effect. A butterfly flapping its wings has a global effect when it is multiplied by the other natural reactions to the movement of the wings.

It is the same with minor setbacks. You could decide that it isn’t worth it to pursue that small goal. But science has proven that the smallest nudge in any direction can result in long term improvement or decay. Don’t let a setback stop progress toward your goals.

If you are a regular around here, you might have read about my dislocated shoulder adventure. Well, last month I tore a bit of my bicep on my right arm, picking up a suitcase and swinging it with too much force. Cue the arm sling, the ice pack and the endless supply of Advil. Thankfully, it was nowhere near as bad as my dislocated shoulder injury.

But, it has been a serious setback for me. Here is a list of things I like to do that need healthy biceps: weightlifting, knitting, casting a fishing line, vacuuming, carrying groceries, push-ups, and propping up my body while watching Netflix.

Life Has Plans For You On It’s Bullshit Calendar

So, I find myself in another opportunity to practice choosing my mindset despite my circumstances. The hidden gift of a setback is the sudden opportunity to test your beliefs. The beautiful thing about doing work on your mindset is that life will give you many chances to test your new mental strength

Here are some things that are helping me in this season of a setback:

1. Admit the setback. Denial is the worst thing you can do when life has served you the poo-poo platter. Express appropriate anger if you need to, call your best friend and whine if needed, but do not ignore the problem. Accept, and then intentionally release the pointless draining anger that can keep you in a frustrated feedback loop.

2. Take inventory of what is left. After a setback, spend some time focusing on what is still possible. Write a list of the ways that you can work around the loss. For example, my torn bicep still moves in certain ways, so I am focusing on what is possible in the gym. No matter how small, consider the opportunity that exists in the limited space.

3. Plan for a better future. Yes, of course you can recover from a setback. The larger question is- are you willing to do what it takes to build again? The future will look different, and most likely, it will be better in some ways.

Back to the dislocated shoulder story- after I healed, I built my shoulder back up again. It is stronger than ever, and there is no evidence of my previous debilitating injury. But time and effort are the two most important ingredients a successful comeback. If you lack patience and faith you will struggle to create a successful future outcome.

Life is full of setbacks; some are annoying and others are devastating. In those moments, the only thing that you can choose is your mindset. Making adjustments, finding small victories and getting back into the flow of personal power will help you build a better future.

Choose to be brave and be strong, because sooner than you think, life has some bullshit scheduled for you.

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