Dealing With Setbacks

Last week I discussed setting mini goals to keep yourself moving forward. But even with a great game plan in place, inspiration to keep you motivated, and rewards here and there as you meet your mini goals, there will be times when things won’t go so smoothly. You will encounter setbacks, not the least of which will take place in your own mind.
Out of Your Control
Sometimes things happen that are just out of your control — but they’ll have a negative impact on your goals. You don’t get that job. Your car breaks down. Your significant other breaks up with you. You get sick, whether it’s minor or not. An organization you volunteer with doesn’t need your help anymore.
These outside factors can set you back a bit and make you feel as if you’ve taken one step forward only to get pushed two steps back. Rest assured this is normal. Life isn’t all smooth sailing. Just think how great it’ll feel when things actually go right! These setbacks will help you appreciate the positive when it happens. But in the meantime, do the best you can to muddle through. If you need to wallow a bit, take that time to wallow. Just make sure you’re ready to pick yourself up and push forward again when the wallowing is done.
Slip-Ups
Let’s face it, we’re not perfect. There will be times when we’ll slip a little in our goals and do something that will counteract what we’re trying to achieve, whether it’s splurging on that chocolate cake or buying that gadget we really didn’t need.
Don’t beat yourself up about it. Repeat: don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s going to happen. And the harder you are on yourself, the worse you’ll feel, and the harder it will be to get yourself back on track. Now that’s not saying that you can just throw caution to the wind and do whatever you feel like. If you’re serious about turning things around and taking charge of your life, you’ll need to do the right thing most of the time. But cutting yourself some slack when you slip up will make it easier to stay on track the rest of the time. If you allow yourself a little freedom, you won’t feel as restricted — and you won’t feel the need to rebel with more constant slip-ups.
If you find yourself slipping up often, ask yourself why. Maybe you’re trying to bite off too much at a time. Maybe you’re trying to take steps that are just too drastic. Cut back a little, make your efforts a little smaller, and see if you can do better. Baby steps will still get you there. It may take a little longer, but if you’re frequently setting yourself back, those big steps aren’t getting you there any faster anyway! It’s all about finding the right pace for you — so you can keep yourself in the right frame of mind:
  • Maybe cutting out all extra spending all at once is too much. Try just cutting out that daily coffee to start with.
  • Maybe cutting out all sweets is too dramatic. Try limiting yourself to one or two a day instead.
  • Maybe expecting to ace all your classes is too much pressure. Just try your best, study for your tests, and see how well you do.
Depression
If progress seems slow, or outside factors seem to be against you and you don’t seem to be treading water, never mind moving ahead, it’s easy to start thinking negatively. And this can lead to bouts of depression, whether you’re normally prone to them or not. That’s OK. No one expects you to be happy all the time. But you will have to get yourself out of it eventually. So how do you do it?
I wrote an article for Suite101.com about how to boost your mood. I encourage you to read it here. It’ll give you some ideas to get yourself out of your funk. In addition, when it comes to my goals, I find that simply taking a little bit of time to think about the goal, reformulate my game plan, and come up with concrete action steps helps get me thinking proactively again. My mood may not be magically better, but at least it gets me back on the right track.
If you find yourself constantly in a cloud of depression, and nothing you do gets you out of it, you may need to talk to a doctor. There’s no shame in that. Do what you have to do to get yourself feeling better. Even if one of your goals wasn’t to focus on your health, it’s never too late to add a new goal to the mixing pot!
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