Have you lost a loved one or close colleague recently? Did one of your best customers unexpectedly end your long-standing business relationship? Did the bank just reject your loan application? Whether these or others, all of us experience what I’ve affectionately come to call “challenging moments” throughout our lives. They sting and stop us in our tracks. They may even feel debilitating for a while.
In the last 3 years, I was forced to leave my home for a full year due to the devastating effect of a wildfire, the COVID-19 pandemic turned our lives upside down, and I was in a horrible traffic accident leaving me in constant pain due to a bad whiplash injury. Any of these experiences in isolation are probably manageable. Together, well let’s just say it’s a lot!
Lots of people are still struggling right now – whether for personal or professional reasons, or both. The question, then, is what do you do when you experience setbacks like this? Do you turn to a tub of ice cream or your favorite whiskey? Or do you cherish the many blessings you do have in life and keep keeping on?
Resilience may seem like a tough thing. Sure, it’s probably easier to curl up in a corner and cry. That’s just not productive – nor sustainable – though after a few minutes of sobbing. Quite frankly, other than the instant relief that may come from being emotionally exhausted, crying in the corner isn’t any fun.
As such, I’d offer another way to approach this. Setbacks like those above offer us a unique way to create breakthroughs and produce even better results in our lives. When things are “fine”, we tend to continue day to day, business as usual. You may not spend as much quality time with that loved one you think you’ll have in your life forever. You may not prioritize that customer visit as you allow yourself to be busy with other things. It’s only when things aren’t “fine” that we tend to stop, reflect on what’s happening, and chart a different path forward. That presents powerful opportunities for us to reset and do things differently.
Remember, there are 3 distinct tenses in life – Past, Present, and Future. During uncertain times, the Past has already happened, and we can’t go back to change it. And don’t get caught up worrying about the Past predicting our Future. We can learn from the Past and let these lessons inform our choices in the Future, but the Future hasn’t happened yet. All we have is right now in the Present, so focus on that which is within your control – especially during setbacks and in times of crisis.
So what’s the trick to being present and not completely shutting down when you experience a significant setback? First, be in the moment and acknowledge your feelings and emotions as you experience them. Be kind to yourself as you process whatever you just experienced. Then, once you regain a bit of composure, use a pattern interrupt to push on.
The following are some of the daily rituals and mindfulness practices I’ve embraced to help me manage the frequent stress and anxiety I experience in the face of setbacks and in times of crisis –
- Rigorous structure and predictable daily schedule with set routines, usually starting with a 30-minute workout at 6:15am and concluding with a dog walk around 4 or 5pm
- Varied mix of soothing music and nature sounds when I really need to calm my mind
- Periodic breaks from all the Zoom meetings and other heads-down work simply to stand up and stretch my body throughout the day
- Regular trips outside to watch our bird feeder, smell the fresh air, and feel the sun on my face during those frequent breaks
- No coffee or soda, just 100 to 150 ounces of water every day
- Mindful breathing and focus as I transition from one task to the next and to regain my composure when something does throw me off
Yes, I have some other indulgent pleasures at times. I’m generally better when I live a binary life though – either I eat sweets or I don’t, I work out or I don’t. It’s not about being perfect. Life is not a pass-fail test.
That’s why I don’t prescribe to diets that allow otherwise well-intended and healthy individuals to fail. If I happen to miss a daily workout because of my travel or a very early morning meeting, I’ve still honored my commitment to my personal health and fitness 4 days out of 5, or 400% more than I would have otherwise. If you ever break the habit or fall off your set routines, just acknowledge it and start again when you can.
Now please don’t misinterpret my message here. Do I want to celebrate the loss of a loved one every day? Of course not. Do I want to intentionally sabotage our best customer relationships? Absolutely not. I’m simply offering that bad things happen to good people when we least expect it. When they do, we can learn from our past experiences and bring ourselves to an even better place if we are present and focused.
Are you struggling to maintain some presence in your life? Need some help being resilient to everything life keeps throwing at you? Give me a call at 310.589.4600 or email me directly and let’s review what mindfulness practices might work best for you in the face of setbacks and in times of crisis. You can also visit the Executive Coaching page of our website if you want to learn how an accountability partner can enable you to tackle your greatest challenges to achieve your key objectives.