How to Bounce Back from a Setback

It’s easy to stay motivated when everything’s going well. But our plans don’t always go smoothly.

Perhaps you’ve experienced a setback on your way towards a particular goal:

  • An injury that stopped you working out and achieving the level of fitness you wanted
  • An unexpected bill that put a massive hole into your hard-won savings
  • A rejection letter from the job that you really wanted

… it could be almost anything. Whatever the details, the setback was something that made your heart sink. Your plans were abruptly derailed.

Perhaps you feel like giving up. Or perhaps you’re trying to plough on ahead despite the setback – but you only seem to be making things worse. You know you can’t struggle on for much longer.

Here’s how to recover your motivation:

#1: Give Yourself Some Time to Rest

Don’t jump back into the action too fast. After a major disappointment, you need some time to rest – even to grieve. Set your plans aside and don’t worry about your goal for at least a few days.

If you try to muddle on forwards, you might do more harm than good. You could exacerbate an injury by trying to do too much, too soon – or you could cause yourself even more financial problems by taking out a hasty loan.

#2: Take Stock of What You Have Achieved

You haven’t yet reached your goal – but you have achieved something along the way. Once you’ve given yourself a chance to rest, it’s time to reflect.

How have you improved your situation? (Maybe that unexpected bill wiped out half your savings – but if you haven’t managed to save up that money, you’d be in a considerably worse position right now.)

What skills have you developed that you didn’t have before? (You might not have got that job you were going for, but the evening classes you took to boost your resume helped you to gain a new qualification.)

It can be very powerful to write down your achievements, so you can see them in black and white.

#3: Consider an Alternative Path

This is where you have to make a tough decision. After taking stock, you need to decide where you’re going next. Will you continue on the path towards your current goal – or will you do something different?

In some cases, sticking on the same path is the best choice. There’s no point ditching your savings account entirely just because of an unexpected expense.

In other cases, you might want to revise your plans. Perhaps your novel has been rejected by every literary agent out there – you could decide to self-publish instead.

Make sure you give yourself enough time to think about this step (though don’t get stuck dithering forever). You don’t want to rush into the new thing that comes to mind – but equally, you don’t want to stick with a goal that’s clearly unachievable for you.

#4: Find People Who Can Support You

Whatever you decide to do, you’re going to want some support. Other people can really boost your motivation – by encouraging you, advising you, or simply taking an interest in your goal.

Your supporters could be:

  • Friends and family – they may not have any particular advice or expertise to share, but they love you and care about how you’re doing
  • An group of like-minded people – they’ll “get it” and encourage you to keep moving forwards; often, they’ll be at a similar stage on the path to you
  • A mentor or teacher – someone who can give you solid advice and practical assistance as you work towards your goal

Setbacks can be brutal and discouraging. But they can also be a reminder to stop, take stock, renew your commitment and find supporters. You might even find that your setback is a new and exciting opportunity in disguise…

I’d love to hear about your experience of overcoming setbacks. The comments are open!

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