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The Power to Keep Moving Forward After a Setback

Don’t ever quit in the midst of a problem.

How many times have you thought of giving up after a significant setback? If you are like most entrepreneurs you’ve had your share of setbacks and sometimes you probably feel like quitting.

I’m not unique. I face problems in business and my personal life every day. I used to get so frustrated; I’d sit there, stew and think about quitting.  The words ‘screw it’ were on the tip of my tongue so many times. Then I realized the time to quit is not in the midst of a problem, but actually when the problem is solved. It’s ok to quit when things are running smoothly again. But not until you fix the problem.

You’re probably thinking, “That’s crazy. Why would I quit when things are going well?” It comes down to confidence. We are a learning and adapting creature. We build our lives on a series of successes. The more epic the failure, the sweeter the victory.  It’s not the same moving forward in life without learning the lessons presented to you by an obstacle like a significant setback.

You need to solve that setback to get to the next level in life. Sounds kind of new age motivational, but it’s true. Without accepting the challenge of the problem, your life won’t make the step to the next level.

So, now that we have all the ‘new age’ motivational stuff is out of the way, let’s get down to some practical solutions to keep moving forward when things seem to be falling apart.

The more you push forward, the worse things seem.

In my experience the harder I pushed to solve a problem the worse the problem got or, the harder it became to understand. At that point, it is just best to take a slight step back and allow things to cool. Reevaluate them from a clear fresh perspective. Sometimes a cooling down period can take a day. Sometimes it can take a week. The idea is to step away and think about how important it is in the broader landscape. Allow your brain time to quiet.

I find myself moving to other projects for a while and let that project simmer. Sometimes, somehow, miraculously things might fix themselves. Whether they do work out on their own or not, you will be able to start reevaluating them with a clear state of mind.

Accept the fact that a setback is just a learning experience.

It sounds a bit cliche, but it is 100% true. Every failure is a learning experience even if it is a problem which has happened before. Often others involved will chalk it up as a dumb mistake. I find that the ‘dumb’ mistakes often need a fix in procedure or some new procedure. One small tweak will get the project or problem running better than it ever before.

I’m a big believer in business procedures. We are all human. Humans make mistakes. Documented procedures cure human errors. If you have a set back because of a ‘human’ mistake, start methodically evaluating your methods.

The small reason something didn’t work.

I also find after letting setbacks cool for a while, what appeared to be a significant catastrophe ends up being one small glitch. Most of the time you or the team is so emotionally involved in the project, tiny glitches get overlooked.

Another cliche alert here, but bring in a fresh perspective. I know it can be painful to our pride, but bring a fresh set of eyes. A new person completely removed may look at the problem and stumble on a quick and obvious solution. Most of the time we are too buried in the issue to look for the obvious solution.

Set a new short-term goal and push hard.

I like small, short-term goals. What I do is set a short-term goal which is easy to understand, but methodical to implement.

Think of a project fail and restart as the way you would drive your car after an accident. Most people aren’t going to mash the throttle a pull away like a crazy person, after even the mildest of crashes. The restart procedure is most likely methodical. You hold the brake, put the car back in gear, check your mirrors and slowly squeeze the pedal as you pull away. You are focusing intently on each procedure.

Projects are the same way. You slowly implement each step with methodical precision until the project is back up and running.  Small goals done precisely, build confidence as everything starts to take back off. Don’t underestimate the power of meticulous attention to detail.

In the end, we all look for quick easy to implement solutions. If I were, to sum up, a quick fix to help you see your way through a problem or set back, it would go something like this. First, slow down or stop, pull back and reevaluate to find the first flaw in the system. Experiment if you need to to make sure the fix will work. Then restart by slowly rebuilding the puzzle as you go along. Be methodical and set small easily achievable goals along the way.

When the problem is solved, and the machine is back up and humming, the system is flowing, then and only then is the time to think about moving on, but not before. Make sure you use this setback as another building block of life.

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