How to Come Back From a Setback

(Copenhagen, Denmark)

(Copenhagen, Denmark)

#1 Don’t Paint Your House

Have you ever had one of those days when everything just seemed to keep going wrong? Your car broke down, then your heel broke while trying to call a cab, then you spilled coffee on your shirt because you were late to a meeting and then you ran into a clear door in front of your boss? Yeah. I’ve been there.

But is everything really going wrong? Or does it just seem that way? If we isolate each one of these unfortunate events, they are just simply that. Unfortunate events. 

When a single negative event occurs we have a tendency to create a narrative about other seemingly unfortunate events in our lives until our whole life is just one big tragic novel. Everything is going wrong. Everything is bad. Everything is a mess.

If we pause for a moment and acknowledge that a setback happened. A bump in the road occurred. A negative event transpired. But that these singular events do not predict the rest of the day, month or year. The past does not foreshadow the present moment.

Don’t paint your house when you’ve only painted one room an unfortunate shade of green. Change the paint. You have the power.


#2 Create a Judgment-free Zone with Yourself

When a setback happens, we hit a bump in the road (or many bumps), or something occurs that is far from ideal, our brains are hard-wired to focus exclusively on that negative event. This negativity bias served us well in the early years of our existence to sense danger or threat, but these days it just means were going around in our every day lives with an inclination towards the negative.

So when a setback occurs in our lives it is only natural to hone in on it with an acute focus. You were actually born that way. So please, I beg you, do not judge yourself for what you were hard-wired to do.

These negative events give us enough emotional turmoil without throwing judgment on the pile. It’s how we take action after the setback that counts.


#3 Find Liberation from the Past

“The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live, and that is the present moment”

In our past we have memories that may hold pain, trauma, regret or fear. Due to our brains negativity bias we relive those memories over and over again—each more painful than the last. As if we are punching ourselves repeatedly without room for pause or concern. We keep ourselves in our personal hell and those feelings can manifest themselves into seeds of doubt in everything we do. Those memories can serve as a reminder for why you can’t do this or why you shouldn’t do that or why that thing that you really want to do won’t go well. Our memories become our own devil’s advocate.

But your past does not define you. The past is gone and we cannot get it back. While this may make us sad knowing we cannot change the negative events that have occurred, we can also take a great amount of liberation from that.

Your pain and trauma that left feelings of regret and fear are in the past. And while we carry the memory with us, the choice of whether or not we have to suffer is still up to us.

If we can acknowledge that our past occurred. Accept that those events were not our fault and most certainly not deserved (for no one deserves pain). And honor our efforts in moving forward, we can train our brain to go against our hard-wired negative bias. To choose another way of thinking and reacting can starve the devil’s advocate (because you can refuse to feed it) until it no longer exists.

Our past shapes us into who we are but our past does not have to define who we are.

Who we are, the choices we make, what we choose to believe, and how we choose to react—are 100% our decision.

Whatever happens from this present moment on is up to us.


#4 Keep Moving Forward

Since the past is gone and the future has yet to arrive, what can we do? We have two options: Sit on our couch and wallow in events we cannot change or we can continue our walk forward, mindfully.

Mindfully in the sense that we acknowledge what has happened, accept that we cannot change it, and honor our efforts in all that we do.


#5 Love Yourself

For all that you are and all that you are becoming.