Blog Post: Dealing with disappointment and setback (the story of my week!)
I felt the pop in my calf and instantly knew something was wrong. Minutes earlier I'd been happily hitting a tennis ball over the net, and now I was hobbling about in agony.
It was a sprain in my calf muscle, and little did I know that my mode of transport, for now, would be...a shiny new pair of crutches. That wasn't in the plan for this week?
So what happens when things don't go to plan? When we get thrown a few curveballs we weren't expecting, yet the urgency or implication of it demands our immediate attention in such a way that the rest of our landscape changes for a while.
I often talk about the idea that it's not the thing that happens to you, but how you relate to it that makes all the difference to your experience. Cognitively, we hear that and think 'yeah that makes sense' - but what does that actually mean in practice?
Because when setbacks happen in our business, life, or with our health, it often feels like we don't have a choice about how we feel. And anyway, is there anything wrong with feeling disappointed, disheartened or even devastated? Not at all, it's a normal human reaction.
It's when we expect something to be different from what it actually is, that's when we trip ourselves up a little 'this shouldn't be happening to me!' is often an overused phrase when actually 'OK, this has happened, what now?" may be more helpful. The closer we can sail to the reality of what's actually going on, rather than what we think it should be, then we give ourselves a less difficult experience.
When things go wrong, it's easy to jump ahead with our thinking and assign all kinds of meaning and narrative to it. 'Oh, that's it now!' and off we go on the dark road to doom and gloom. I did it myself. 'I'm going to be off exercise for weeks now, that will make me grumpy' was my immediate internal dialogue.
But rarely does it come true, right? What we catastrophize in our head rarely comes true. The reality often turns out to be a much kinder unfolding of events than we had imagined.
Now, this conversation wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention the words Silver Lining, would it?
Is it a cliche? Perhaps.
But when you think back on your business journey, or your life's history so far, and times of challenge, disappointment, or setback, can you remember in what ways it also opened up a new opportunity for you? Perhaps not in the way we planned or expected and it's often only a realisation that comes to us weeks, months or even years later - 'if that hadn't happened, then I wouldn't have gone on to learn this about myself...'
And what if you can ask yourself the question much earlier on in your experience 'OK, what opportunities does this open up for me, now?'
What difference would that make to your experience of setback? For me, I've noticed spending a lot more time with my daughter, because all I can do is sit, with my leg elevated - which is wonderful for a six-year-old girl who has me in one place, rather than Mummy running up and down the stairs and around the house being 'busy'.
And then there's my friend, Catherine who made me smile when I told her about my ridiculous week so far, to which she replied 'good, you can use all that time that you'd normally be exercising and get cracking on with your online course!'
She's right, and maybe because of that, perhaps I won't need to work through all of the May half-term as originally planned. #silverlining
(Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash)