Get in front of this year’s setbacks
It’s been a tough year for many of us. If you were affected by the historic flooding, our hearts go out to you. If this year brought other heartaches such as depression, divorce, debt, job loss, loss of loved ones, or other setbacks that have left you thinking, “this is not how my life was supposed to go,” know that you are not alone. Let’s take a collective moment to try to get our losses into perspective and consider ways to move forward into acceptance, progress, optimism, and gratitude.
It’s natural to feel discouraged in these situations, like life is unfair, and desperate for things to go back to the way they were. But it’s unhealthy to remain in that place for too long. With our eye toward recovery and rebound, let’s consider the following steps.
1. Change the way you look at setbacks. Setbacks happen to everyone. But when they do, they present an opportunity to become wiser and more compassionate. Use what you’ve experienced to make you a kinder spouse, parent, friend, and neighbor, create a more meaningful life, and become a better “you.”
2. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It’s easy (and natural) to major in what has gone wrong. To break the inevitable pattern of negative thinking and self-pity, begin each day by listing five things for which you’re grateful. When someone asks you how things are going, try to answer with the positive first and talk about your setbacks, as little as possible.
3. Establish a regular spiritual practice. Stress can cause us to focus on the negative in a situation. Developing a regular spiritual practice—be it a church service, meditation or yoga, or daily one-on-one time with God—can help settle your mind and offer you a clearer outlook to make better decisions as you forge ahead with your new life.
“Strength comes from struggle. When you learn to see your struggles as opportunities to become stronger, better, and wiser, then your thinking shifts from ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I must do this.’” – Toni Sorenson
4. Banish bad habits. Look at your setback as a do-over—and a do-better. Ask yourself, “What have I done in the past that was unsuccessful?” Consider unhealthy relationships, toxic work environment, poor eating, or sporadic exercise regimes. Use this break from your former life to move forward with a better, more discipled you.
5. Avoid critics and naysayers. Sidestep people who inflict their message of doom and gloom on you and surround yourself instead with grateful, upbeat people. Spend time with fun, easygoing friends and family who support you and want to help you get back on your feet.
6. Act, don’t react. Life feels out of our control when we spend all our time reacting to what’s going on around us. Set and pursue goals, even small ones at first, and do something each day to make them happen.
A study conducted by the University of Buffalo published in the Association of Psychological Science journal found that those study subjects who’d experienced some negative events in their lives fared better in their careers and relationships. They also looked at subjects suffering with chronic back pain and found that those who’d endured bad events in their past handled pain better than those who hadn’t. Their conclusion? A little trauma is good for honing coping skills. Knowing how to tap deep for the strength to push through is a skill we build upon from past bad times.
“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls you.” – Akshay Dubey
We all have them:
- Setbacks—hiccups or speed bumps that make us scramble a bit or take a detour.
- Roadblocks—things that impede our progress or even make us feel stuck in one spot.
- Defeats—life-changers that force us to do a complete 180.
When they inevitably occur, we have a choice to make. We can:
- Cast blame
- Get angry
- Have a pity party
- Let fear paralyze us
Or we can accept that life is full of peaks and valleys, bad things happen to good people, and it’s the storms of life that build true character. We can:
- Allow ourselves time to recover
- Forgive ourselves and others
- Try to make peace with our circumstances
- Take the first step toward regaining control
- Look for ways to help others in the same or worse situations
Begin your rebound and recovery with these four questions: What are the most important things I want for my life? Why do I want them? What must I do to achieve my goals? What small step can I take today to work toward that life I want? Record your answers and do something every day to get a little closer. Remember, when something bad happens, we can let it define us, let it destroy us, or take back the reins and let it strengthen us.
By Mimi Greenwood Knight