How to Deal with Setbacks

Many of us are working on creating something intentional such as a meaningful relationship, creating a business, climbing a rock wall (that pic IS of me if you’re wondering…back in my climbing days struggling on the wall) or building your dream career.  All of these things have an intended goal or result.

Here’s what happens a lot: We get really excited starting out.  We’re motivated. We have some ideas. We take some action. We go on dates.  We teach a class. We have a client. And….then things fall apart. They don’t go as planned and we give up completely.  Decide it wasn’t the right thing and move back to our comfort zone.

It’s not a surprise this happens—schools and society don’t teach us how to pick ourselves up after a devastating setback.

If you want to expand your capacity to contribute, be of service, and show up for yourself and others, you must learn this: failure and success are on the same path.  There is no one who is “successful” who didn’t fail along the way. Note: the reason I put success in quotes is because you get to define what success is. Success can look any way you want it to.

To prove this here are some cool pictures of me climbing! All the practice….the falls….have made climbs like these possible.

climbing arete.jpg

What many of us want is the success without the failure.  What I’m learning is that we become successful in fact by failing (ie learning not how to do something).  

I recently got back from leading 4 kayaking trips to the Apostle Islands and this has been my 4th year doing the trips.  Every once in awhile someone will say to me something like, “that trip was perfect.” And, I usually reply frankly, “the first trip didn’t look like this.”  And that’s the blatant truth. But I didn’t stop after the first trip, I refined and learned, refined and learned.

And that’s how life basically works.  Try something. Learn. Try again. Learn. Repeat.  Nothing more than that.

The problem is that when failure happens we take it to mean something deep and permanent about ourselves or our ability.  If you bomb at a presentation, you might think: “I should never speak in public” or “no one will ever work with me again.”

I was listening to her podcast last week and life coach Brooke Castillo was sharing how we all need to increase our failure tolerance, because how do we know what’s possible if we only do what’s safe and comfortable?

When we dip a toe outside our typical comfort zone we challenge the existing conditions.  We challenge that this is the most I can do, be, or have.

So that’s the practical advice I got for you on success and failure.

If you’re interested in the awakening process read this:  There is a deeper exploration of success and failure. From the Buddhist perspective success and failure only exist to a human is trying to get something out of life.  If we’re not trying to get something out of life, then everything is simply an experience. Action happens, then there are results. There are more pleasant experiences for sure.  There are experiences that might make us feel joyful, alive, and exuberant. And there are experiences that might invoke fear, anger, and sadness. When we take the “bird’s eye view” of life though, these are all part of life….nature.