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The best-laid plans can sometimes go very wrong. You can try to predict every eventuality, strive to cover all your bases, cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s, and life can still blindside you with something you never even considered. That’s just how it goes sometimes.
This isn’t as terrible as it probably sounds. To not have things go your way is a normal part of life that you can learn to navigate.
These setbacks are easier to deal with when you adopt a “success” mindset. That is, a lot of people don’t walk a linear path from start to success. Instead, they start walking their path, run into problems, and find a different approach that gets them where they want to go.
Granted, not every problem can be handled that way. Sometimes we hit an end and just have to accept that’s the end so that we can let go and move on. But for many things, we need to readjust our paths and move in a different direction.
These ten steps will help you get moving again when things don’t go your way.
1. Reconsider your criteria for success and failure.
The first thing to do is determine whether or not you are at an end. The situations you’ll face in life will have different criteria that help determine success or failure. For example, consider the difference between a personal relationship and a professional goal.
You’ve made a friend that you’re really into, and you have romantic feelings for them. You take the leap and express those feelings, but they don’t feel the same. That’s not really something that you can pivot from. If they aren’t into you, they aren’t into you, and that’s okay. There’s plenty of other people in the world. You can’t force relationship success with that particular person. All you can do is chalk up the loss, lick your wounds, and get back to living your life.
A professional goal is different. Perhaps you applied for a promotion at your job that you don’t get. Well, now you have more information on how to proceed. Does your boss think you need more experience? Do you have room for growth at the company? Or is it time to move on? It may feel like a failure to not get the promotion you want, but that failure may put you on the path to something better.
Not every failure is a failure, and sometimes we get what we want but don’t realize that’s not actually what we want. So take some time to consider the ramifications of your success or failure.
2. Let go of your expectations.
Unreasonable expectations are a sure way to make yourself miserable. Let’s say you have a goal in mind, you’re thinking about how to attain it, you’re working toward accomplishing it, and you’re going to get some kind of reward in return for all of your work.
The reward can be anything, really. Maybe you’re expecting something material like money. Maybe it’s not so material. Maybe you’re expecting something intangible like respect from a particular person or even a feeling of happiness and accomplishment.
The problem with expectations is that none of them are particularly reasonable. An expectation is a hope in the future that you will get something that you want, and we don’t always get what we want. Sometimes we just get what we get. Sometimes we get nothing at all.
Maybe you do all of that work, but you misinterpreted the job and did it completely wrong. The person you were trying to impress may not be impressed at all. There is no physical or monetary reward for accomplishing the goal. Or maybe your brain doesn’t respond the way you thought it would, so you don’t feel anything at all when you reach the finish line.
The easiest way to avoid that disappointment is to have few expectations for anyone and anything. That way, when things don’t go your way, it’s no big deal. It’s just a thing to deal with and move on from instead of getting sucked into the hole of negative emotions and thinking.
That is not to say that you shouldn’t set goals and try to achieve them. No, you just shouldn’t attach specific rewards to the achievement of those goals. See the goals as rewards in themselves and accept anything else that comes from them, but make the goal itself your motivation, not something that might come from it.
3. Acknowledge your feelings.
Don’t avoid or ignore your feelings. You’re allowed to feel angry, upset, or disappointed. You’re allowed to feel hopeful, happy, and excited. And you’re also allowed to feel little to nothing at all about the situation if it doesn’t bother you either way.
The fact of the matter is that once you get comfortable with the idea of the flow of life, it’s easy to let go of those extreme emotions.
Just because you didn’t get what you want this time, doesn’t mean you won’t get what you want next time. New experiences will come your way if you keep going out to look for them.
Do take some time to let yourself feel whatever you need to feel. Feel those feelings and then let them go, so you can move on to the next thing. Be angry, be frustrated, be sad – just don’t live there in those feelings.
4. Process your feelings and let them go.
Talking through your situation with someone you trust can be a good way to get back in balance. This might be a trusted friend, mentor, family member, or even a counselor.
Meditation can also be a great way to process your feelings to come to terms with not getting what you want.
Sometimes we just need to express ourselves and be heard. However, not everyone has that luxury. A good alternative can be writing out your frustrations or even making an audio note on your phone. Get it out of your system so you can let it go and move on.
5. Practice kindness with yourself.
How good is your relationship with yourself? People who may not have the best relationship with themselves may take this opportunity to tear themselves down. This is something to be aware of and to do your best to avoid that negative self-talk.
You’re a human being in a complicated world, doing the best that you can, even if your best isn’t all that good. There’s nothing wrong with that and nothing to be ashamed of.
What you shouldn’t do is beat yourself up, tell yourself you’re not good enough, not worthy, not smart enough, or whatever other negative thoughts pop up. Instead, grant yourself kindness to be human, learn, and grow.
6. Don’t look at setbacks as a reflection of yourself.
It’s difficult to separate yourself from your efforts. You may pour a lot of time and work into trying to accomplish a particular goal, and it just doesn’t work out. That happens in life. There are no guaranteed outcomes because there are so many variables you can’t control.
What you should not do is take that personally. A setback or a failure does not mean that you are somehow unworthy, less than, not smart enough, or not good enough. A majority of the time, it won’t be personal. That’s just how life goes sometimes.
It also doesn’t mean that your goal can’t work out in the future. Maybe you just didn’t have enough information to accomplish the goal right now. This setback may be the learning experience you need to pivot and break through to the next thing. But you’re not going to take that step and additional risk if you feel like you’re the problem instead of the problem being the problem.
Don’t take it personally when things don’t go your way. It’s okay. It’ll be okay. It’s not a reflection of who you are as a person.
7. Look for the lesson.
And speaking of lessons, every failure is an opportunity for personal growth. Making a habit of looking for the lesson in the things that don’t work out makes those failures much easier to swallow. It becomes more of a matter of, “What did I learn from this negative experience that I had?”
That is a powerful way to live because you can stop being afraid of failure and not getting what you want. It’s a lesson. It’s all a lesson. And it’s your lesson to learn so that you can take that wisdom for you and blaze ahead in your life.
8. Decide to let it go, try again, or pivot.
You set your goal, you did the work, but things didn’t go how you wanted them to go. You’ve dealt with the emotions about the situation and have come to terms with the plan going awry. Now what?
Well, now you have to decide whether it’s time to quit, try again, or pivot to a different goal.
There is no shame in quitting. In fact, it’s going to be the best course of action in some situations. If you have given something your all (possibly more than once already) and it didn’t work out, or you had your hopes scuppered by something that was beyond your control, it’s okay to accept defeat and feel what you need to feel before moving on.
Then again, you might still have the energy and motivation to try the thing again with new knowledge that may help you succeed. You may think of a new way to try or get help that you didn’t ask for first time around.
And sometimes we may be blessed with a negative outcome because it puts us on a different path we may not have considered. And that path may be just what you need to get to the successful resolution you’re looking for. This is called a pivot and it can be something that you choose to do or something that just kind of happens as you go about trying for your initial goal.
9. Have patience with yourself.
Life is a long journey, full of twisting ups and downs. Sometimes you’ll smash the goals that you set out to accomplish. Other times it will seem like nothing is going right, and you can’t handle the stress of that.
Take a deep breath when that happens. Remind yourself to have patience. Remember that you are a capable, intelligent person who can blaze their own trail through this life, and then get back to work.
Patience is the most important part of success. Very little in life comes easy or without work. For many people, success only comes once they’ve done many things that didn’t work because then they can dial in on what will.
Trust yourself and trust your journey. You’ll get there so long as you keep going.
10. Vent out that emotional energy in a healthy way.
Most people will experience a flood of emotions when things don’t go their way. Common emotions might include anger, frustration, sadness, and confusion. It’s okay to have an emotional reaction when things don’t work out how you planned. The important thing is to not project it onto other people or into the situation. That can make the situation so much worse and even undermine future success.
Simply put, people don’t want to deal with the extreme emotions of other people. Being a sore loser communicates to others that you’re not emotionally mature enough to trust with things not being perfect.
What does that mean for you? Lost opportunities and strained relationships among other things.
You need to have a healthy way to deal with the emotions that come from things not going your way. That can be anything from exercising to burn off the energy to just taking a little time to meditate and quietly sort out your emotions. Find something that works for you so you don’t blow up your relationships and lose opportunities. Therapy is a great place to start if you’re unsure of how to proceed.
Still not sure how to cope when things don’t go your way? Talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
We really recommend you speak to a therapist rather than a friend or family member. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can help you to manage the practical and emotional aspects of the adversity or challenges you are facing in your life.
A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
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- 4 Reasons Why Bad Things Keep Happening To You (+ 7 Ways To Cope)
- How To Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself: 8 Highly Effective Tips