I hope you're having a good week!
This week I've been having a lot of conversations about "setbacks". You know, those things that do more than just knock you out of your rhythm...the REALLY BIG things that kick your butt for awhile. All of this talk made me think about:
FINDING JOY IN STRUGGLE
Failure is nothing new to most entrepreneurs and small business owners. Unless you are especially lucky, or particularly new at this game, you’ve likely had your fair share of setbacks. I’m no different. Sometimes just when I think I am ready to get some of my ideas into motion and action, I have a major setback; unexpected financial challenges, time delays, unresponsive partners, etc. These setbacks have become such a regular part of my entrepreneurial journey that I’ve come to not only expect them, but in fact to RELISH them, even ENJOY them in some cases.
In fact, FINDING JOY IN STRUGGLE has become such a regular part of my life and practice that I often find myself getting excited when my clients begin to struggle, because I know that significant struggle is the beginning of significant growth. In order for them, and their businesses, to truly become what they’ve always imagined, they have to go through some extreme trials and challenge their old ways of being. I have NEVER seen an entrepreneur succeed without struggle, and I hope that I never do! Setbacks are such a gift for all people, not just entrepreneurs.
That being said, I know that setbacks and struggle are hard for most of us to joyfully embrace, but here are a few things that you can do to recover from painful setbacks and get back on track toward your goals:
- Don’t Dwell- Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning and The Miracle Equation (among others) has a particular concept called “Emotional Invincibility” in which he encourages us to LIMIT the amount of time we spend grieving to a few hours, or even a few MINUTES. He famously was nearly paralyzed in a car accident when he was 20, and the doctors told him that he would never walk again. He was walking within THREE DAYS simply because he refused to dwell on the past (the accident) and instead focus on the present (taking one step at a time). The idea behind this is that dwelling on an issue increase guilt about “what I should have done” and moving forward in the present and planning toward the future creates the hope of “what I can do now.” In fact, even Buddha exhorts us to “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
- Practice Gratitude - The relationship between gratitude and well-being has been well-documented. People who habitually focus on the positives in their life may have greater self-esteem, lower rates of depression, and overall improved life satisfaction. One of the simplest ways to cultivate this orientation towards gratefulness is to consistently keep a simple gratitude list or journal. Get into the habit of writing down at least three things you're thankful for each night before going to bed. It takes literally seconds and can have a huge impact on your general well-being, stress levels, and anxiety. Not feeling very thankful? Keep in mind that gratitude is a choice, and not necessarily something that comes easily. Cultivating gratitude takes time and patience; so don't be surprised if you initially have to dig deep to find something to be grateful for.
- Meditate - Meditation is well-documented for its ability to lower stress and increase personal well-being. While meditation may not be a cure-all for stress and anxiety, it does lead to small to moderate improvements in levels of psychological stress. Meditation can take a variety of forms, so don't let the thought of it turn you off. My meditation practice is simple, and I recommend that yours be as well. I simply SIT IN MY CHAIR for 10 minutes and COUNT BREATHS in through my nose and out through my mouth. When I get to 100 I start over. There are many free or inexpensive guided meditation apps you can download and use anywhere, anytime. Want a more mobile meditation experience? Look into the simple practice of walking meditation. Want something even simpler? Stare at a candle, take some deep breaths, and let your thoughts go.
- Exercise - I know that I beat this drum a lot....maybe too much, but I think it's a KEY to stress management and joy in life. Sabrina and I go to the gym every morning at 5:15AM. We don’t do this solely for the positive impact that it has on our fitness, but primarily for the positive impact it has on reducing our stress levels. In fact, recent research suggests that exercise may be helpful - not because it sends a surge of endorphins through our bodies, as previously thought - but through triggering the release of norepinephrine, the chemical responsible for helping your brain deal more efficiently with stress. Exercise may actually be a “trial run” for stressful situations. Exercise gives the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. It forces the body's physiological systems to communicate much more closely than usual. This workout of the body's communication system may be the true value of exercise; the more active we get, the more efficient our bodies become in responding to stress.
- Embrace Stress - Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal says that viewing stress as a positive can actually make you stronger and happier. She writes, "Viewing stress as harmful leads people to cope in ways that are less helpful, whether it's getting drunk to "release" stress, procrastinating to avoid stress, or imagining worst-case scenarios...In contrast, viewing stress more positively seems to encourage people to cope in ways that help them thrive, whether it's tackling the source of stress, seeking social support or finding meaning in it." Stop running away from stress. Lean into it instead.
- Rub Some Dirt On It - I’ve written many times about the fact that you don’t have to FEEL GOOD to do hard things. Our brains are constantly seeking the paths of least resistance…that is; they are always seeking pleasure over pain. This is why we avoid the hard things. By their very definition the hard things are HARD - which means painful. Avoiding them doesn’t make them go away. The faster we can get re-engaged after a setback the better. Sometimes the best thing to do when you get scraped up after falling off the horse is to rub some dirt on it and get back on that horse.