Updated: Nov 22, 2022
All progress has its rhythms, and our growth and success often come in fits and starts. Many times, there is quite a bit we don’t have control over, which impacts how we navigate change. One thing we can control, however, is how we choose to respond to the inevitable difficulties we run into.
When we are taking risks and pursuing what matters to us, when we are intimately connected with others, there is no question we will run into obstacles. Often and unavoidably. So when something is not unfolding as we intended, how can we respond in a way that taps into our resilience and focus on moving forward? One of the most important things we can do is pay attention to what we are telling ourselves in challenging moments. Is the internal dialogue after a set back some version of “I’ll never get this right. Things always go badly?" Or something along the lines of, “this is manageable, I just need to figure it out.” Faulty assumptions or negative self-talk undermine our ability to recover, and adversely impact outcomes.
It helps to have a a strategy for recovery and to practice the skills of resetting. Here are some questions that may help us get out of our own way - for positively reengaging and moving forward:
• What specifically am I reacting to?
• Is my reaction going to change anything (or make it more manageable or unmanageable)?
• Is how I’m responding going to help me resolve the issue or prevent the situation from happening again?
• Does it serve me to keep thinking this way? Why or why not? Are there alternatives?
• Is there another lense I can view this through that will help me move forward?
• Is what I’m telling myself about this situation true? What is faulty about what I’m thinking and what is accurate?
• Is there a way I’m protecting myself by continuing to believe this?
• Is my thinking performative or organized around how I feel I am supposed to manage something, or does it genuinely reflect my own values, wants and needs?
• Is my thinking driven by shame or fear? Can I move to a place of self-compassion or optimism?
• What piece of what I’m struggling with do I have some control over and what piece can not be changed? Is there anything I can let go of right now?
• Am I falling into all or nothing thinking by not recognizing where I can move the needle to some degree or make things a little bit more manageable for myself?
• Is perfectionism keeping me from seeing a situation accurately or recognizing what aspects I am managaing well?
Exploring these types of questions can help us assess what we can and can’t influence, as well as identify what we can do that may improve a situation. When we hit that roadblock it’s a good time to take a step back and reassess. A growth mindset reminds us there is an opportunity in these struggles. It can be the difference between doubling down on your efforts or giving up.
While recovering and resetting may mean you don’t move forward exactly the way you planned, hitting pause and assessing what is working and what isn’t helps you refocus. It’s about course correction, rather than chasing perfection.
Other tools for recalibrating may include:
• Constructing an amended goal. Not going so big. Identifiying manageable steps. We abandon plans too often because they are too ambitious or we overshoot. Recover by simplifying, working on what you can control, and executing on a smaller version for now.
• Knowing the difference between accountability and self-recrimination. Accountability involves taking stock of behavior and choices, and what worked and what didn’t. It recognizes there is a margin for error. Recrimation is blaming and shaming. There is no good path from beating ourselves up and it leaves us with very little capacity for objectivity, healthy risk taking, or problem-solving.
• Critically assessing what is getting in the way of getting back on track. Is it anxiety, vulnerability, boredom, thinking that it’s too much work, or making assumptions about how it’s going to play out? Take some time and space to figure out what may be holding you back.
• Practicing self-compassion. While you may want to be doing things differently, or better, than you are, recognize that our competency comes most often from how we choose to respond to challenges rather than performing perfectly. Setbacks are unavoidable when we are stretching ourselves, and the way we navigate these struggles are often how we develop frustration tolerance, persistence, flexibility and confidence. It’s how we endure the difficult moments that shape us.
• Recognizing progress. Scan for strengths: what are you getting right? What are you proud of? What small shifts have been made, what has been done well, and where have you adapted? When we focus on growth and growing, we combat that negative internal dialogue, and build muscle memory around our competencies.
Resilience isn’t a finite strength, and it’s not an inherent trait. It’s something that can be developed with purpose and practice, trial and error. In these uncertain times, with the many challenges we face – as we are out there finding our way culturally, interpersonally, professionally, academically – give yourself the opportunity to reset and recover. You’ll be better for it.