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5 Ways to Bounce Back From Any Setback

Don't wallow in it, and whatever else you do, take care of yourself.

Key points

  • Sometimes, failure can lead a person to find a new way of doing something or redirect their energies.
  • A setback could occur when one's desires and values are not aligned.
  • Simple persistence can help one get over a setback.

I’m pretty good at handling rejection. I’ve had a ton of experience: When you are a writer, you hear plenty of “nos.” And, when you’re a parent, you do, too. And if you're at all human, you get plenty of practice managing mistakes, failures, setbacks, and rejection.

But I actually like telling some stories of defeat—the ones that are followed by stories of success. Because while I’ve suffered plenty of setbacks, one thing I will do is keep going.

Persistence—not perfection—is essential for success in relationships, business—anything, really. If you want to have a healthy, meaning-filled life, you’ve got to keep going. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when it’s hard. Even after failure. Especially after failure.

How do you persist in the face of adversity? How do you keep going when you feel like quitting? Here are five ways:

1. Redefine what failure means to you.

Intellectually, we know that our mistakes yield the opportunities and insights we need to ultimately succeed in life. So when rejections come, or the boss says no, or you lose the financing, house, or whatever it is that you wanted, slow down and notice what isn’t working. Stop focusing on all the ways you’re screwed, and start thinking about the information that failure offers. It’s usually telling us to find a new way or to redirect our energies. Perhaps it’s there to remind us of our commitment level, to reestablish our dedication. When we can identify what isn’t working—instead of becoming identified with the pain of our failure—we can start on the solution, the new approach, the next big thing that will carry us in the direction we want to go.

When I was having a hard time selling magazine pieces, I experienced the disappointment of each rejection. Then I began looking at the things that were keeping me from the acceptance letters. While I had strong ideas, I wasn't all that good at writing pitches, I discovered. So I took a class and worked with a coach who helped me hone that skill, and I've been selling my work ever since.

2. Experience disappointment, but don’t wallow in it.

Of course, it hurts when our dreams get derailed. Allow yourself to experience the frustration and disappointment that comes with failure, then get up and get going again. Don’t deny your emotions, but make sure that you also come up with another avenue, activity, or interest to pursue so you don’t get stuck in despair.

3. Detach from outcomes, and focus on process.

We can become so attached to a single desired outcome that we feel lost and devastated when we don’t get that one result. If there is only one way to succeed, then disappointment will inevitably loom. Focus instead on the process: What is it that is driving you toward your desired outcome? What are your passions and values? Are the steps you’re taking toward your goal in line with those things?

If you are growing and learning and living close to your values and passions all along the way, any outcome you achieve will feel worthwhile—even if it is not your ideal. It won’t be time wasted; it will be a life well-lived. When your process aligns with your values and passions, you’ll succeed in myriad ways. But, if you are failing repeatedly en route to your ultimate goal, it could be because what you think you want doesn’t align with your values. Might be time to adapt your goal.

4. Get some sleep.

Seriously, people: The tough times are a lot harder to handle when you are not eating and sleeping well. Take care of your body. Get some sleep and examine the situation when you are better rested. Often we lose perspective, and our ability to creatively problem-solve because we are just too tired or hungry. Rest well and any rejection or perceived failure will feel a lot easier to deal with. A little physical activity is another way to release the angst and gain the clarity you need to persist.

5. Go again.

Peter Bernik/Shutterstock
Source: Peter Bernik/Shutterstock

Baby steps. Just a little step forward on the very day when you’ve felt smacked around by life can help you recommit and move through the pain of rejection. When your proposal is turned down, make the suggested improvements, then send it out to another company. When the promotion goes to someone else, sign up for a class that gives you an added skill. When your partner breaks it off, schedule a dinner with a sibling or close friend and soak up their love. When you are doubting yourself, feeling like a failure, get up and go again. With persistence, you can overcome any setback.

Some portions of this post originally appeared at Imperfect Spirituality.

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