Setbacks: Great Opportunities for Self-Leadership
In the concert of life no one gets a program: an old adage that comes to mind every time unexpected things happen, especially if these are of a disappointing nature. Disappointments never come alone. Like cowards, they arrive in pairs, and very often even as trios. Even if you are aware that things will get better, it remains dreadful to face setbacks. Your natural sense of optimism may be stellar, yet, you are still very likely to experience an initial sense of gloom when a setback hits. This is normal, because human beings are creatures of habit, so they usually mourn during transitions, sometimes even when those transitions lead to progress! The process of mourning pertains to leaving an old, familiar situation behind, and moving toward a new one that is still largely unfamiliar.
One thing to keep in mind is that every setback holds a strong message and a powerful opportunity. You just have to be willing to face it, and consider your options. What will you do next? How could you move out of the situation you landed in without too much damage? Is there an opportunity to move to a more constructive situation after the setback? Here are some questions you can ask yourself to start the recovery process after a setback:
1. What is/are the lesson(s) I can learn from this experience?
- Make sure you don’t just look on the surface, but consider the bigger picture as well. If your setback is a discontinuation of a daily or weekly trend, for instance, you could think about the need to move into new directions and moving to a higher plane of development as some of your lessons. If your perceived setback pertains to a change in your work situation, you could consider that things may not have seemed the way they looked, and that you should focus on the future instead of standing still or looking back.
2. What were the things I did not enjoy about the old situation?
- There are upsides and downsides to every situation. Even the nicest chore has some less pleasant angles to it. Yet, when we lose something, we think it was the best we ever had, just because it is no longer available. A situation that has now ceased to exist may lose some of that embellished desirability if you consider its good and bad elements, thus refrain from over-romanticizing it. This is how you keep yourself from agonizing too much about a situation you cannot restore anyway.
3. What are some new avenues I could try, now that this setback is a fact?
- Life always offers us choices. Not all options may be as desirable, but there will definitely be some that are worth pursuing. Start thinking, as soon as you have digested the first blow. Make a list of options, if you can. Even if some of the alternatives you write down seem ridiculous, don’t give up on them too quickly. A slight modification may change an initially ludicrous sounding idea into something perfectly viable. It may take a while before this modification enters your mind, which is why you should consider your alternatives regularly.
4. How can I get started on the new path?
- Begin with small steps. Don’t get too zealous too soon. But start and try as soon as you regain your natural energy. The first attempts may not lead to anything, but sooner or later, you will find your new focus.
There are great self-leadership opportunities in setbacks. The very act of engaging in self-reflection, as suggested above, and the subsequent preparation of an action plan, followed by the action itself, is a manifestation of leadership. Even when it feels like the entire world is against you, there is one person who should not let you down, and that is the leader inside you.
A plus-side to all of this is, that there are always people who observe you, even when you think they don’t. People choose their leaders on the basis of their actions, not necessarily on basis of their positions. If you can prove that you are able to guide yourself out of precarious situations, others may decide to follow you, even if only as a role model for their actions.