Life can be a real pain in the butt at times. Sometimes it feels like the universe is always trying to humble you after a win. One moment your job gives you a Christmas bonus, and the next, a cop pulls you over for a busted tail light. Or worse yet, maybe you didn’t even get the small win, and life is kicking you down after handing you a big fat L. Whatever the case, overcoming setbacks and learning to be comfortable in the chaos are some of the biggest skills you can learn as an adult. Of course, life won’t always be perfect, but that doesn’t mean you have to roll over and take it.
Adapt, Adapt, Adapt
Most of us have this picture in our heads of what we want our lives to look like or what we are working towards as an end goal. Maybe you even have every single step of that journey planned out. You graduate at 22, are married by 25, and have kids by 28. Maybe you have your career path planned out too, but in the wise words of Captain Cold, “Make the plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails, throw away the plan.”
You can plan all you want, but life will throw a wrench into that plan. Having goals and a plan for your life isn’t bad, but you need to be flexible to adapt to whatever setbacks and obstacles get thrown your way.
Control and Anxiety
Setbacks can send us down a mental spiral. Life feels great when we are in control, but anxiety can start to creep up when that control slips. A major part of dealing with and overcoming setbacks is learning to focus solely on what you can control. Stressing about what you cannot control will only send you spiraling even more. When a problem falls on your lap, what’s the easiest way to solve it? Well, how do you eat a whole elephant? One bite at a time. With setbacks, focus on what you can control. Fix the things you can fix no matter how small, and focus on the little steady progress you make. Remember to stay in the present and be mindful instead of dwelling on the past and spiraling down a rabbit hole. You’ll start to realize that things will be okay. It’s a steady flexible grind, not a sprint.
You Are You Are Stronger Than You Think
Like I said earlier, life can be a real pain in the butt, but you are stronger than you think. There are times when you might feel like Atlas carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, and at any second, you might collapse from exhaustion. I know it’s kind of corny, but anytime I think about giving up on something, I always think of the movie, Unbroken. The scene where Zamperini doesn’t drop the wood beam but instead raises it above his head as an act of strength and defiance always gives me strength. (And if you haven’t seen that movie, it’s one of the best WW2 movies right behind Hacksaw Ridge.)
So as my soccer coach in high school would say to us after running us ragged, “Find your next gear. Don’t slow down because the second you do, you’ll want to stop. And stopping isn’t an option when you want to win.” (How cheesy, I know. But you soak that kind of cheesy stuff up in high school sports.)
Failure is a part of life. I would say that failure is the biggest catalyst for growth. You learn more from a loss than from a win. Mistakes make you, but they do not define you. Failure will only define you when you finally give in and give up on your goals. And while getting slapped in the face with failure after failure can suck. If you surround yourself with those who encourage and embolden you, then you can shake off the weight of failure and learn from it. Life is too short to let your failure define you. Learn, adapt, grow, and move on from your mistakes, and you’ll be a better person for it.
Setbacks, Obstacles, and Responsibility
If failure is the biggest catalyst for growth, then the first step in that growth is to own up to your responsibility for your setbacks. Sometimes things happen out of our control, and there is nothing we can do. Sometimes things happen as a direct consequence of our actions. Take the time to reflect on those situations and own up to your responsibility in the setback. If you can’t identify the cause of the setback, you are bound to repeat it.
Life will throw you fastballs, curveballs, and change-ups whenever it feels like doing it, so it’s best to get comfy with it. Now is the time to learn how to deal with setbacks, so when the time comes, and you need to show up and show out, you know what to do. Some setbacks are small and easily overcome. Use that as practice for when things hit the fan. You’ll be comfier at the plate when you start to recognize the difference between that fastball, curveball, and change-up.