Two steps forward, one step back. Or sometimes, two steps back or even three – and then we’re really lost, asking ourselves how we even got there. The setback comes in all shapes and forms, but always of the same effect. It has a tempting, toxic ability to keep people in a negative state of mind making it more of a stayback than anything else. We feel it when relationships end, whether with a partner or a close friend. We feel stagnant when our career choices don’t reach the expectations we have bred in our minds. We become self-degrading, unconfident, anxious, and fearful versions of ourselves whenever we face circumstances that stunt our flow of life. The sad part about all of this is not the fact that obstacles happen, but rather that our collective response to hardship is to blame ourselves by shutting down. After all, if it’s happening to me then I must be deserving of it, right?
Incorrect. Unfortunate things happen all the time, and a quick reality check can help many of us realize that our problems are not quite as hefty in the big scheme of things. But how do we get out of the mental rewind that keeps replaying the negativity reel? First and foremost, separate your true self from the problem.
STEP 1: You are not the circumstance. The circumstance is happening to you, it is not you. And too often, people feel entirely consumed by the problem almost becoming it.
Tim Storey, world-renowned motivational and inspirational speaker says it best when he describes how people ruminate on their issues. He says that “We nurse it, curse it, and rehearse it.” By doing this, we are conditioning our minds to react to problems by constantly thinking about them and repeating them in our heads. Storey explains in his book Comeback and Beyond that the best way to cope is to “accept the now and take inventory of what is happening.”
STEP 2: Thinking about a problem is different than being aware of what’s happening. When you become aware you are expanding your thought patterns from dwelling on a single issue to seeing the entire picture. Less thinking, and more recognizing. Recognize how you’re feeling and what triggers you to repeat bad thoughts. Knowing how often you nurse, curse, and rehearse will help you work towards stopping those thoughts.
There is great power in what we think. Because of this, we must be very careful with what enters our minds. Setbacks create space in our heads to think negatively, but we can train ourselves to make space in our heads for positivity. It’s about redirecting what we pay attention to. Instead of focusing on what went wrong or what we failed to do, realize that there are unlimited other ways to focus on things that will breed positive thoughts. If you feel like you have nothing, give more. Volunteer, call a friend, help your parents out at home, and experience firsthand what happens when you shift the expected course of action. Your mind is so used to repeating the bad, that when you begin to feed your thoughts with helpfulness and kindness, your emotions begin to change as well.
If you feel lost and confused, be open to getting help from others. It is common for people to think that success is a one person job, and if they can’t do it on their own they don’t know how to be successful. This is twisted thinking. The most successful people understand the importance of mentorship and having a strong team of individuals to support one another in both work and personal life.
STEP 3: Shift your receiver and pick up positive signals. Don’t stay in the setback. Choose to hang out with people that believe in you. Make an appointment to talk to a counselor or therapist. Only read beneficial and substantial articles and follow positive people on social media.
There are so many times in life that we can feel weighed down. A lot of that weight is in what we think and not actually what is happening. Take the time to redirect yourself and don’t forget:
Separate from the problem. Recognize your thought patterns. Shift yourself to get better reception.
“Life is all about course-correcting.” – Arianna Huffington