Chinese Confucian philosopher Mencius shared that though we would like the world to be predictable and stable, it is actually unpredictable and fickle. Basically, our world will always have successes and it will always have setbacks.
As a coach, parent and businessman, I have seen this in action time and time again. I have come to believe that life sends us successes so we learn to celebrate, and setbacks so we learn how to be resilient in a world that constantly changes.
And there’s a reason for that.
First, we learn so much more from setbacks than we do from successes. The tough situations provide the big lessons, lessons that stay with us and help us achieve tomorrow’s successes. This is how we learn to be resilient, adaptive and flexible in an uncertain world. When confronted with a setback, instead of getting frustrated or retreating, instead ask, “What is this teaching me?”
Second, setbacks create opportunities for improvement. Mencius’ perspective is that the tough times remind us that we live in a world where there is always an opportunity to improve it. We do that by staying focused, resilient and strong when setbacks happen. A powerful response to experiencing a setback is to ask yourself, “What could I do to make this better?”
Think about the last time you experienced a setback (with the way this year has been for so many of us, you might not have to think too hard). Now think about your response to that setback. Did you get disappointed and frustrated that it happened, expecting more things to work out? Or did you ask “what does this teach me and how can I make things better?” True, it may be easier to give up than to learn the lesson, but learning the lesson is how you make things better and, ultimately, create the life you want to live.
Every setback has valuable information for you if you choose to see it. Train your brain to refocus on the situation and see a setback as merely something that didn’t go as planned, not the universe singling you out. It isn’t personal; it is just life being life. Sure, we may like it to be different or even better. But it is what it is. And, when you remember to look the event at face value, you’ll see it generously provides the opportunity to learn and to improve.
Do you see setbacks as opportunities for disappointment and despair? Or are they opportunities to become better, wiser and more resilient? Same situation, different outcome. You choose how you are with what work and life sends you.
Focus on your successes to give you the encouragement and stamina to address the setbacks. There will always be both. Use them together to show up strong, focused and intentional each day, learning, growing and improving. When you do this, life becomes your friend, not your enemy. You will learn how to experience it as it is, making the most of each shared moment.