How To Deal With Setbacks. A Fool-Proof Strategy To Get You Back On Track

By Mike McClement

April 27, 2016   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

setbackLet your mind drift for a moment… You’re in a perfect place—a place where every morning you wake up feeling confident, ready to take on the world and win. In this place, everything always works out. Struggling to imagine that? Yep, me too. Life doesn’t always go according to plan. It has its ups and downs. If you’re not careful, the ‘downs’ can force you onto a slippery slope of negativity and low self-esteem. Setbacks happen. You need to deal with them quickly to prevent negative thinking from taking over. So how do you that? Having a strategy will help.

Some time ago, while I was in the Armed Forces, I was invited to spend a week submerged at sea in one of the Royal Navy’s Nuclear Submarines. The crew were being tested on how they dealt with emergency procedures. The objective was all about damage control. What’s that got to do with dealing with setbacks you might be thinking? Well, I learned a lot from the crew’s reaction to a setback. I’ve followed the same principles myself ever since. The principles work. They will help you to deal positively with setbacks you experience.

Initiating Damage Control

So you’ve had a setback in your life. It could be a failed interview, a work issue, a rejection in a relationship. or maybe just a small event that knocked your self-confidence. It’s time to switch to damage control mode.

Phase 1: Don’t panic

Panicking will get you nowhere. In fact it will only make things worse. If the setback has just happened, breathe deeply. Calm down. Don’t try to address the issue until you are fully in control of your emotions. On the submarine there was never any panic, even when the control room was full of smoke and we were all a wearing breathing apparatus. Remember, you can’t make a rational decision when you’re in a panic.

Phase 2: Think rationally

Don’t lay blame; take personal responsibility. Thinking rationally starts with accepting what’s happened. It may seem like the world is caving in around you, but 99% of the time it isn’t. So try to get the setback in proportion. Don’t fall into the trap of building it up to be something it’s not. Replace your emotion with rational reflection. Be objective. Think logically. If you’re feeling embarrassed about what’s happened, try to set this aside so it doesn’t affect your thought processes. Ask yourself, what are the implications? You’re likely to find that the implications aren’t anything as bad as you thought. You’re slowly training your brain to come to terms with the setback. This will help to stop negative thinking in its tracks.

Phase 3: Drill down

The word crisis originates from the Greek language, meaning ‘a moment to decide.’ This didn’t come about by accident. So, let’s say you failed an interview. Now you need to work out why. Be specific; it’s not enough to just think ‘I didn’t come across very well’ or ‘the interviewer didn’t look interested’. You need to get to the bottom of why you didn’t you come across well and why the interviewer didn’t seem interested. Find the answers and you’ve got something tangible you can act on to stop it from happening again. Then decide what needs to be done to address the situation. Is there any immediate fall-out from the failure? If so, do you need to act quickly or do you have time on your side? Write down your plan of action. A recorded plan is more likely to happen than an imagined one.

Phase 4: Act

Stop yourself from having knee-jerk reactions. Unless it’s an emergency, making a quick decision can be fraught with danger. In most cases, you won’t need to act immediately (even though your heart says you should); so take stock. Slow down. You’ve established what caused the setback. You know what to work on. You can apply this the next time you’re faced with the challenge. Great. You’re in a stronger position. Still, don’t get complacent. Don’t just wait for the next challenge to come along. Seek out opportunities to improve. Take the initiative. Submariners create opportunities to practice damage control. You should, too. There’s nothing stopping you from starting this process right now. Be super-conscious of what you’ll do the next time you experience a setback. “Forewarned is forearmed”; this old English proverb was never more true. Keep it simple. Take one step at a time. Don’t panic; think rationally; drill down; act. Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear how damage control works for you.

Mike McClement

Self-improvement author and coach. Founder Think Confidence. Passionate about helping people to have the self-confidence to maximise their potential and enjoy life to the full.

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