When you have a setback you’re often put on a nasty emotional rollercoaster. So what is the best way to deal with a setback and recover faster? Try asking yourself the 3 questions set out below.
Sometimes I’m asked what was the hardest part about taking on the trans-Atlantic rowing race. Well, oddly, it’s not the sharks or the storms, or the seat gnawing away at your backside, or never sleeping more than an hour at a time. In fact it’s nothing to do with the race itself – the hardest most painful task, that requires the most tenacity and resilience happens before you leave shore. It’s raising sponsorship. You’re spending thousands and thousands of dollars as you burn through your limited savings paying to get the boat built and buy equipment, and so you’re desperately knocking on doors day after day, to keep the dream alive but you keep hearing no after no after no.
Top tip – If you’re lucky enough to get a sponsorship meeting with Bell Tea and the CEO asks you if you’d like a tea or a coffee – the correct answer isn’t coffee.
With all the setbacks I was having I started to get very down on myself. I’m not the only one. When you’re having knock after knock it’s really easy to blame yourself, to really unhelpfully stick the boot in, to obsess about your mistakes, and get lost in doubt. That’s what happened to me.
But then I was very lucky to come across this technique that helped me process setbacks a bit faster and allowed me to get some perspective and hang in there. It didn’t solve my problems – but it allowed my head to get back in the game.
The Setback Recovery Process
Because when you have a setback there’s a process you are going to go through. You start off in your happy place then you get knocked down into the well of despair with the sharks of self-loathing and then you ‘reflect’, you ‘reframe’ you ‘reconsider’, and slowly, slowly you float back up to the top and you feel something like normal again.
Now you know that, depending on what put you down there, you can go down very deep, and spend a lot of time with the sharks before you do finally float back up to the top.
What if there was another way to deal with setbacks? Wouldn’t it be great if you could speed things up a bit, not go down quite so deep, get through it a lot faster, and possibly even stick it to the shark on the way through!
There is a way, and here’s how it works. If I were to ask you WHY you were feeling bad you could DEFINITELY tell me why. For example, ‘My customers have stopped calling’, ‘I don’t have any money’. You just insulted me and now I’m offended.
Something has happened to cause you to react. You have reasons for how you feel. Reasons based on facts.
Well … actually, it can’t be the ‘facts’. I mean it’s not the sound waves from your voice that is causing the offense (unless you’re shouting). Those sound waves had to get turned into meaning inside my brain. So strictly speaking it’s my interpretation of the facts that is causing this emotion.
But surely there is only ONE possible interpretation of the facts? My son has just flushed my iPhone down the loo. I’ve just lost my job. I’ve just got a duck in the final of the cricket world cup. There is only one way to feel! You would have to be insane to be anything other than miserable. Right?
Well, there might be only one way … but it seems unlikely. Have you ever been in a situation where other people, in the exact same circumstance as you, have a completely different reaction?
Here’s a little exercise to go through that will help you to test and challenge the white knuckle death grip you have on the SACRED RIGHTNESS of the story that you’re telling yourself about what has just happened. The story that is creating your emotions.
Here’s how it works – if you’ve just had a setback there’s only THREE questions that you are asking yourself that determine how bad you feel.
Who’s to blame?
How long will it last?
How big a deal is it?
And for each of these 3 questions the answer tends to lie on an axis from ‘It was all me!’, to ‘I was just a part of it’. From ‘This will last forever’ to ‘This too shall pass.’ From ‘ everything has gone wrong!’, to ‘It is just this one little thing that has gone wrong. The rest of my life is fine.’