Having to deal with unexpected setbacks is a challenge we may all face from time to time. How we deal with these setbacks could mean the difference between winning and losing. Here are a few essential strategies that may help you stay motivated through setbacks so you can continue to steer your ship on the right course.
Understand the adversity stages.
There are several stages we may experience when dealing with setbacks. These include denial and anger, and may be followed by disruption or despondency. It may help to understand what you're experiencing so you can deal with each stage. Failing to acknowledge and deal with each stage may keep you stuck in a particular stage, which could delay your ability to move forward and focus on the next steps. Self-awareness can precede self-management, so try to get some clarity on what emotions you're experiencing.
Face up to denial.
You may have worked hard at building your business and developing important relationships. So it can be understandably difficult to have to face the realization that not all is working as you planned. This may result in refusing to acknowledge the potential ramifications of a setback when you first experience it. Don't keep blinders on and avoid facing the problem. The best way to move through denial may be to acknowledge it squarely and call it what it is. Then just deal with it. The longer you continue in denial, the harder it may be to cope with the challenge. Inaction is often not your ally.
Tame your anger.
It may be natural to experience anger either at yourself, or others, when things go awry after having expended a great deal of energy and time to make something happen. You may not be able to suppress your initial anger, but it can help to be aware of some of the pitfalls that come with prolonged anger. For example, making a decision while you're still in the anger stage may not serve you well. Anger can cloud our judgment and make us jump to conclusions. Use logic to calm yourself down. Remind yourself that going through a rough spot can be a natural part of everyone's life journey, especially when it comes to running a business.
Try to manage your anger by managing the words you use. What we say can have an impact not only on others, but on ourselves as well. You may find yourself swearing and cursing and telling yourself and others that "everything has turned into a mess," or "the project is ruined." Change this by using some cognitive restructuring and tempering your language. For instance, instead of saying that "it's infuriating," consider using a more toned down approach: "It's frustrating, but I'm working on finding a solution," or "it's difficult but we will find a way to ..." Speak as a leader and you may find it easier to get through this stage.
Some may experience a state of low spirits after a major setback, which can disrupt their momentum. By all means, indulge in the disappointment if you have to, but don't wallow in it. Later, you'll likely be glad you didn't waste too much time ruminating on the issue.
This may appear as the hardest stage to cope with, but there are many things you can do to beat this and move on. One size doesn't fit all. So pick some strategies that work for you and create your personal bounce back toolkit. This may include practicing the relaxation response, giving meditation a try, engaging in physical activities, practicing self-care, reading inspirational material, listening to motivational tapes, attending networking events, strengthening ties with family and with those who matter to you, working with a business or resilience coach, or tapping into your network for advice and support, to name a few.
Put pen to paper.
It may help to write down some notes to yourself describing what happened and what you're thinking and feeling. Jot down any troubling thoughts, and examine each one to see if there's something that may be illogical or distorted about it. Is there perhaps a more rational response? Clarity can often come from writing. It may be more effective to handwrite your observations rather than type them. Technology might sometimes become too distancing for this purpose.
Get some distance.
In life, perception is often reality. But our perception may be clouded. When you've suffered a setback, you may not be able to view the situation with clarity, because your emotions obscure your view. It may help to distance yourself temporarily from the problem so you can gain a more objective perspective on what happened.
Don't beat a dead horse.
Conventional advice is often to get back in the game and try harder. There are times, however, when reevaluating your course of action may be called for. Was the goal or the direction right for you? Was it realistically achievable? Have conditions changed to make it less desirable to pursue the same course? The setback may be your clarion call to explore an alternative path. What is your plan B?
Ease up on yourself.
One of the perils of going through a setback is that we can have a tendency to be too hard on ourselves. A way to stay motivated and to continue to focus on what fuels you is to practice self-compassion. This may result in experiencing less anxiety and being more optimistic about the future. A measure of self-compassion may reduce the stress brought about by the setback and help you cope better with the hand that's dealt. So, try to cut yourself some slack.
Perhaps one of the best ways to cope with a setback in business can be to remind yourself of your "why." Reconnect with your reasons for doing what you do. Don't forget the meaning behind all your efforts. Remind yourself of where you've been, what you've achieved so far, and keep your eye on the vision you created for yourself. What got you out of bed in the morning raring to go? It may help to ensure you don’t lose sight of this. A setback can be just a stumbling block, and you may need to find ways to jump over it rather than let it stop you in your tracks.
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A version of this article was originally published on March 3, 2016.