How to turn a setback into a set-up

Sometimes, we’re on a path and we’re going strong. We’re investing time and energy and making progress.

Then, something happens.

We get hurt.

A leader leaves.

A job disappears.

When my son was little, he worked hard on amazing Lego creations. Sometimes one brick placed with too much strength caused the whole wall to crumble.  Frustrated, he’d demolish the whole thing. 

It’s easy for us to do the same when some of the work we’ve done starts to crumble.

Instead of looking at what we lost, however, we need to look at what we still have.

Pieces of that wall still stand.

Recently, I needed to take some extended time off from my yoga practice (and, let me level-set here…I’m not some stretchy, flow-y yogi…I’m a regular person making yoga progress bit by bit). It was interesting timing, because I’d been very disciplined and had made breakthroughs in strength and flexibility (heck, I could do a headstand without falling over into the person next to me. More on that story another time).

Last week, I went back after five weeks off.

At first, I felt sad and frustrated. The voice in my head told me “This is like starting from scratch.”

But, by my third day back, it wasn’t starting from scratch or even feeling like day 3. In fact, I’d rapidly regained strength and flexibility and surprised myself (and really surprised that negative voice in my head!).

This wasn’t a start-over.

It was merely a setback.

Setbacks tempt us to give up. To destroy the whole house we’ve built when all we really need to do is repair a few bricks.

Instead of letting setbacks remind us how far there is to go in order to regain where we were…we can choose to let setbacks remind us how far we’ve come and then set us up for rapid growth as we catch up and exceed the place we left off.

Setbacks will come.

When they do, welcome them. They only make their presence known for a while. They’re like a visitor.

Take a pointer from Elizabeth Gilbert who talks to her fear. Try talking to your setback “Hey, setback. I’m so glad you’re here. I’ll make a little space for you so we can learn from each other until its time for you to go.”

More great resources for ensuring setbacks don’t hold us back:

1 Comment

  1. Hi Any:

    So timely for where I am in my life. Have also been reading Dare to Lead as you are. Very powerful and thought-provoking.
    I have my 5th panel interview/vIdeo presentation tomorrow so say a prayer. I am on a simultaneous track for the Senior Change Lead position.
    Thank you for your words and spirit. I feel grateful to have met so many good people from Citrix. Have a great Sunday.

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