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How to shift your mindset after a setback

Six strategies to harness a setback and propel you forward

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All of us have had (and will continue to have) setbacks personally and professionally— clients refusing to renew, a project didn’t go as planned, a promised promotion didn’t materialize, being terminated after a phenomenal performance review.   The path to personal and professional success is littered with setbacks even for those who appear to be the most resilient.

Some setbacks are small, having a minimum impact on your ability to move forward while others can feel life altering. Setbacks, interruptions and obstacles — whether personally or professionally- are status-quo.  Despite setbacks being the “norm” there are ways you can shift your mindset to transform the situation from a defining moment to a circumstance that leads to forward momentum. 

Here are 6 strategies to harness the setback and shift your mindset:

1. Acknowledge, own and feel the negative emotion.

Acknowledgment is essential to moving through a setback.  I am quick to tell people that we don’t merely “get over” something that is negative—we “get through” it.  Pretending that feelings of disappointment, frustration or anger don’t exist will not make the feelings “go away.” In fact, denying the feelings may actually make them stronger.  Within the acknowledgement be mindful to not throw a pity party or take the opportunity to blame others.  Take the time you need to process, as some setbacks may need more than a pause to recover.  Hasty actions, like a reactive email or a resignation letter may lead to regret—take time to put space between action and reaction.

2. Redefine your approach:  focus on action. 

After setbacks it is It is quite common to have self-doubts and lack confidence. A framework for action and redefinition of approach is critical to combat a negative mindset. After you’ve had time to process emotion and gather facts then move forward with your plan.  Not sure where to start or having trouble making a plan? Then start with a project or activity that has been a source of procrastination and measure progress along the way. Focusing on achievement and completion go a long way toward building self-confidence and will energize you after a setback.

3. Put fuel in the tank

We have all heard at nauseum that self-care is necessary to withstand life’s buffetings.  When we have been actively engaged in upkeep of the engine (e.g. your brain and body) the easier it will be to recover and adjust to setbacks. We all know this involves maintaining good physical health– plenty of sleep, healthful food and consistent exercise.  The importance of good mind health is also critical fuel for the tank.  Avoiding excessive alcohol (alcohol is a depressant, after all!) and recognizing if you have an internal ‘committee’ in your head that is deprecating are important elements of mind health.  A change to our internal dialog from negative to positive is a critical element to an ‘engine’ running smoothly. Having a strong engine will also help you keep obstacles in perspective.

4. Be selective of who you allow into your tribe

A setback is a prime time to pay attention to who is in your tribe.  Do people in your circle ‘get’ you, and support you in your goals?   Unfortunately, many of those whom you consider close may not.   Although a setback is probably not the time to start weeding out friends and colleagues it is a time to pay attention to who “has your back” and those that offer unsolicited negative feedback. Practice the art of selective hearing with those who have a tendency toward critical negative opinions or who provide evidence why the direction you were pursuing “wasn’t going to work.”   Seek support from a tribe who are striving toward transformation. 

5. Let the Past be the Past

You could spend hours thinking about what happened before your setback and how you could have changed it.  Hindsight is 20/20—looking in the rear view mirror will do nothing but keep you stuck.  If you must rehash the situation put a time limit on the rumination– where you set that limit is your choice.

6. When feeling stuck go back to basics

If you’re feeling down, or stalled, or lost, or just unsure of what comes next, then go back to basics. Look back on your own life and recognize the strength that got you this far.  Nothing is lost. Most of us have a personal story of a failure that led to something greater. It sounds idealistic but really the situations that you thought were failures were really opportunities in disguise. The chance to pivot from the course you thought was neatly charted with recognition of your strength can only occur fully in the face of adversity. Interruptions aren’t endings but beginnings.  It’s about your mindset. When you embrace change your “next” thing will be even better.

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