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Dealing with setbacks on your way to success

Everyone experiences setbacks, disappointments and losses in their lives.  Some more than others. It happens in our personal lives, careers and relationships at all ages. You can use setbacks to your advantage, advancing you in your job, or you can let them paralyze you. Recovering from a misfortune of any kind begins long before the situation happens.

Acknowledge it. Own it. Change your mindset. Connect with others. Strategize, plan and follow through. Continue learning.

Setbacks are a normal part of the path to success. Even superstars experience impediments. Things don’t always go as planned. You may have to endure criticism, deal with being passed over for a promotion or any other kind of loss in sales or performance. 

Some setbacks are minor but others can make you feel like the world is caving in on you. Most fall somewhere in between. There are techniques that can help you to cope, shed the disappointment and move forward. Some ideas follow.

1. Build a strong foundation to be prepared for the inevitable. This will help you keep things in perspective. Maintain good physical health, get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly. It will help you to keep obstacles in perspective, recover and adjust.

2. Don’t be overly self-critical. Memories of past failures and disappointments may return but don’t allow them to become all encompassing of your thought process. Consider your mistakes and don’t repeat them. Find ways for improvement.

3. Acknowledge it, own it and feel it. It is essential to feel the negative emotions associated with it but don’t blame yourself or others. Pretending you aren’t disappointed, frustrated or angry will not make it go away. Don’t deny, rationalize or minimize it. Get involved in something positive and it will help pull you out of the pit.

4. Connect with others. Surround yourself with people who are objective, positive and focused on solutions, not problems. Select people who will offer support but not throw a pity party. Seek feedback and advice from trusted colleagues who have your best interest at heart.

5. Set new goals. Focusing on a new project will help you move forward and prepare you for the next opportunity. Set realistic goals, get all the training possible and gear up for the next opportunity.

6. Avoid the impulse to fight back. Instead focus on the future. Put this behind you and don’t let it get you down. It is futile to try and punish yourself or others. Don’t play the blame game.

7. Remind yourself that this is only a setback. As time passes it will seem less devastating than it feels at the moment. If you need to cry or “nurse the wound,” get it over with and do so in private. Recognize that you are not alone in experiencing disappointments or loss. It happens to everyone.

Use your experience to jump start a new opportunity to grow and develop. You can’t deny that it can be disorienting and painful but it can be used for a new beginning. Use this to open your eyes and gain a new perspective.

How you respond is a choice. It can separate you from others. It is your choice whether you wallow in your misery or use it as a stepping stone to something better.

Real leaders will set the example of how to deal with disappointments by never losing hope. It has a trickle-down effect and can reinforce the company’s culture. Dealing with losses and setbacks can make you stronger as you plow ahead with optimism.

Recognize that it is inevitable to have setbacks, disappointments and losses in your life, both personally and professionally. You are not alone. Don’t allow today’s setbacks to cast a shadow on tomorrow’s dreams. Dead ends can open doors to become new pathways.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing bvaughnfurlow@gmail.com.