Dealing with setbacks in life
The one thing that is certain in life is that we all have to deal with setbacks at some level. It is almost as constant as breathing at times and can be very overwhelming. How we deal with setbacks is what determines many outcomes and can affect our trajectory of life as well. Here we will look at how learning to deal with setbacks in a positive way can change the outcome drastically and can make us bulletproof in the face of future challenges that life throws our way.
What are setbacks
Setbacks come to us in many forms throughout our lives and not only are they constant, they are also different in nature and their ability to wreak havoc. Some setbacks are minor, such as having to wait for something longer than we planned and the chain reaction sets us back a bit. While other setbacks can be very massive, especially in the beginning, such as getting a divorce or losing ones job. No matter how they come at us we need to understand and prioritize which type of setback needs which type of reaction and plan of recovery.
The initial reaction
Often on the initial onslaught of a setback we are in shell shock and our natural defense mechanism can either be frozen or we react in a way that makes the setback even more than it needs to be. While understanding that everyone deals with things differently, there is often an initial reaction that happens and we have to be mindful of how we react to challenges in life in order to not let it damage the plan that we have for ourselves.
From my own personal experience, years ago I had borrowed money from family to invest in a business and it was doing very well and I was having the time of my life running the business only to have my partners steal the money from me and I lost everything. I was devastated, broke and temporarily damaged from it. My initial reaction was that of great anger, sadness and shame as I had no way to not only pay back the money that I had borrowed, but had no way to recover the money from the bastards that took it. Baseball bats to knees doesn’t get the money back and it really won’t make you feel better either (I did shop around the local sporting goods shop as the thoughts filled my head space).
It took time for me to shake loose the feelings that I had and understand that I couldn’t lay in a funk any longer and needed to use it as fuel to get me back on the horse of life again. It was difficult and I had to come to terms with the fact that I was never going to get that money back and that the people that stole the money, would never face any real consequences as well (come on karma). As painful as those facts were, they were facts and I had to face them.
So, our initial reaction is taken at the most difficult time when dealing with setbacks, no matter how big or small. It is the most critical time to sit down and take a moment to understand what is going on and to think as to the correct way to deal with that particular setback.
How setbacks can be disguised as opportunity
At the time of understanding that you are facing a setback in life, it is important to think about how to turn that setback into an opportunity for growth. While I know that when dealing with something that is devastating in nature, we are always able to grow from the experience and find an opportunity that may be hidden in the debris. The opportunity that one person may find, may be different than what someone else finds when facing similar setbacks in life. This is because we all live different lives and have different outlooks on things and everyone’s previous experiences in life also determines how we are going to initially see things as well. But when trusting and believing that there is an opportunity everywhere, then it is only then can we start to move on from the setback and see those opportunities that lay in front of us.
For my situation from that one setback (and I’ve had many), at the time I perceived it to be huge, after the shell shock wore off, I had some time to take a class to focus on a passion of mine, learning Cantonese. I did a semester of Cantonese learning at a local university language center and it took my mind off of what had just happened to me. I focused on it and the next thing I knew, I was recovering and starting to look at the next steps that I should take in my life.
Time to reflect
Time to reflect is something that few people really look to to help them take the next step in their life. Reflection is what gives us perspective and helps us to slow down our thinking and to get some grasp of how we are feeling and what has happened to us.
We need to sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and write down a list of pros and cons of the setback. I know, you may be thinking that there can’t possibly be pros of having some sort of major setback in life, but there really is. There are pros and cons to everything that we do in life but sometimes we only focus on the negative aspects when dealing with a setback because some setbacks really hurt and it takes a lot of energy and personal growth to be thinking in a positive way at that moment.
Without the reflection it makes it difficult to really know what we should do next or just how we really feel. It also takes a bit of time to really be able to reflect wholeheartedly as for some people the pain of the hurt doesn’t go away so easily. Once you start to sit down with the blank piece of paper and let some words flow, you will be surprised as to how you are able to grow and move on.
Taking the best course of action
The best course of action isn’t something that is always able to be seen so easily, especially at the beginning and of course some actions put you at risk of having to deal with yet another set back (i.e. baseball bats to knee caps). This is why we need to find the best course of action, not just an action just to be doing something but we have to be always ready for a new challenge that may be lurking around every corner.
I remember shortly after I started learning Jow Ga Kung-fu in Washington D.C. and I asked Sifu Rahim Muhammad how often does he get into fights. He answered back that he gets into fights everyday and didn’t give any more details. While I was asking about physical fights, what I realized much later in life was that his meaning was that we all get into fights with ourselves everyday. We fight with what is the best course of action for every situation that we face throughout our day. When having to wait in line at the store, do we get angry and frustrated or do we try to remember the lyrics to our favorite song? When someone is working hard to do things to hurt our spirit, do we go the vengeful route and do the same to them or do we kill them with kindness and move on unaffected?
The best course of action when dealing with setbacks of all kinds is a skill to be learned along the road of fighting to be great at the game of life. It takes time and tons of practice to get the right formula that keeps you moving forward in life.
How to be bulletproof
We all want to be strong in life and for some it’s easier than it may be for others. From my experience, the bulletproof feeling comes just from looking at every situation as an experience that you can grow from. While that growth may not be seen at the beginning, keeping the faith that it always works out and understand that your reaction and actions taken will determine how much you grow from each of those experiences no matter how large or small the setback may be.
Keep growing everyone!