How to deal with a set-back

Life is full of ups and downs. We think we can control so much in our lives, and sometimes we can. But, there are times that reality hands us unforeseen challenges. And when that happens, the question is, how do we respond?

Set-backs can show up in many forms. For me in the last 3 weeks, I’ve experienced a bit of a health set-back that took me by surprise. But you may be facing unexpected challenges that range from a problem at work, to an unexpected issue with a child or parent, to a life interruption caused by mother nature, to a late snag in a big project, to a stalled negotiation, or any number of other scenarios.

When something like this happens, how do you respond? Do you feel panic? Become a bundle of nerves? Worry excessively? Here are 3 ways to think about and work through a challenge you face.

1. Get all of the information you can. This may mean doing your homework, arranging to get the medical care you need, doing research, considering all of your options, advocating for yourself, and reaching out for help and support. I suggest talking through all of this with someone you trust to listen well and help you find answers — those that are external, and those you need to dig for in yourself.

2. Look at all points of view. This is something we rarely do. We think things through in our heads and come to a point of view, without turning the question around, without considering the way others see the issue, or without asking to find out how someone else would approach a similar challenge. What we think at a given moment is not necessarily the whole truth, or the only way forward. From what angle are you looking at the problem? Where are you focused? What might you be missing if you don't consider many points of view? How can you look at a wider view of the situation? Get curious and bravely look at all the angles and possibilities.

3. Be patient, courageous, persevere and keep things in perspective. It is normal to feel fear, anxiety, impatience and distress when things go awry. And, it’s easy to lose the true perspective of the impact of the set-back. It takes trust and patience — with yourself and others — as well as determination and courage, to slow down, attain the information you need, and consider many points of view. By patiently doing that, rather than reacting and rushing forward impulsively, you are more able to find a clear and positive path. You are able to persevere and to do what needs to be done — even when none of this was in your plans.

And, when you find yourself pulling through the challenge — both along the way and when you are on the other side of it — be sure to acknowledge what you accomplished. Savor and celebrate your patience, trust and successes. Don’t rush into whatever is next without appreciating and acknowledging your efforts.

These are basic ways you can coach yourself when life unexpectedly throws obstacles in your path. You may have other ideas about how to find and build resilience. Let me know what you think about it and what has worked for you.