“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.”
- Jon Kabat-Zinn
I recently wrote an article for a customer about how to motivate yourself to start over after you have had a big setback and the above quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn that I came across really struck a chord with me. It’s a beautiful way to visualise, not simply surviving rough seas, but actually using them to propel you to greater things. It pretty much sums up everything I wanted to say in this post about how to regain your motivation after a setback, but in just a few words. Read on, and you’ll see what I mean.
I won’t bore you with all the sordid details of my own catastrophic setback, at least, not in this post anyway, but suffice to say that I lost everything and ended up destitute and homeless. Now, hopefully, not everyone’s setbacks will have been quite as spectacular as my own, but the fact remains that, regaining your confidence and your motivation after any kind of failure is tough. Here are ten things that I have learned about how to find your motivation again after a major setback.
1. Understand that it’s not as bad as you think it is!
If you have just gone through a major loss or setback, then things probably look pretty shitty right now, but try not to “catastrophize”, as my counsellor once put it. If your wife just left you for the postman, you’re probably thinking that you’ll never find happiness again. If you just lost your job, you’ll be thinking that your house will be next. Stop thinking that. Just because one thing has gone wrong, that doesn’t mean that everything else will.
2. Count your blessings
God, fate, or a rabbits foot; you can thank whoever, or whatever, you like for your blessings, but do take into account what you do have to be grateful for. For a start, you are reading this, so you must have access to the internet. How about the roof over your head, the food you have to eat, and the friends and family that you have? Believe me, there are plenty of people who don’t even have those basic things in their lives.
3. Take a break
Setbacks can be exhausting, so accept that you won’t have a great deal motivation for a while, and take a break if you can. If you can’t afford to take a holiday, at least ease off the gas for a while and give yourself a chance to regroup. If you just split up with your partner, now’s not the time to go leaping into another relationship. If your business just went bankrupt, get your mind straight before you enter into a new venture.
4. Stop flogging the dead horse
Let go of whatever it is that didn’t work out and accept the reality that you now find yourself in. Learn from whatever has happened, but don’t keep on thinking that there may be some way to go back in time and fix things. Start thinking about the new opportunities that this set back could bring to you instead.
5. You are capable of far more than you think
That sounds like a real cliché, doesn’t it? Believe me, though, you are far more resilient than you give yourself credit for. I used to think that it was impossible to live on the extremely low income that I found myself with, but I was amazed at how you can feed yourself on a couple of quid! Dig down deep and you will fund qualities and resourcefulness that you never knew you had in you.
6. Draw some lines under the episode
Another cliché I’m afraid, but you really do have to draw a line under the past to be able to move on, so do something that marks the ending of one chapter in your life and the beginning of the next. Depending on your personal situation, you could redecorate your home, buy some new clothes, or get a new hairstyle. I moved all the old files my laptop to an archive directory called “Old Life”, and I’ve never looked at any of them since!
7. Start planning for your new future
Where do you want to go from here? Another pertinent quote that I picked up when I was writing that article for my customers was one from Marilyn Monroe, who once said “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” Look on a setback as an “Advance to go” rather than a “Go back 3 spaces”. If you lost your job, this could be the chance to start a new career, for example.
8. Take small steps at first
When you do feel ready to get back into the race, ease yourself in gently, one step at a time. It’s very likely that the setback you experienced has sapped your self-confidence, as well as your motivation. You might even fear that it will all go wrong again, so go slowly, and you will gradually regain the momentum you had before. Each little mini-success along the way will help you get back on your feet and rebuild your confidence.
9. Don’t quit at the next hurdle you face
When you first start recovering from a major setback, little glitches in your progress that you would have ignored before will seem far more important to you than they ever used to. Don’t use them as an excuse to quit, though. Keep going and you will soon learn to roll with the punches again.
10. Aim high!
A big setback can turn you into a bit of a pessimist, but don’t let it kill off all your dreams. Sure, you will have to adapt your plans to suit your new circumstances, but that doesn’t mean that you need to stop trying to achieve things. To help you find your motivation again, here’s another great quote that I found. This one’s from George Elliot: “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” Keep going, aim high, and good luck!
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