From the Magazine

How to Recover From Any Setback and Reclaim Your Confidence

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We all encounter detours on the way to achieving our dreams, yet our experts promise you can create a road map that’ll boost your confidence and put you on the path to success. 

Boost your resilience

Name that feeling

Setbacks stir up a cocktail of emotions, and the first step to bouncing back is letting yourself feel. “Rather than suppress frustration, remind yourself that everyone feels a little lost when facing a setback,” says happiness expert Karen Salmansohn. “Ask yourself what it is you’re experiencing, then name it, be it guilt, anger or disappointment. Doing so spurs activity in your brain’s executive-functioning neocortex, cutting the intensity of the emotion by 50 percent and helping you gain perspective.”

Count your “overcomings”

It’s key to remind yourself that you have rebounded in the past, notes positive psychology coach Caroline Adams Miller. “We tend to ‘awfulize’ and believe that we don’t have the tools to get back on our feet.” Her fix? “Consider journaling about what you did to get through a challenge in the past. Your list of ‘overcomings’ triggers positive memories that spark hope — this is called ‘mindful remembrance,’ and it’s proven to increase resilience!”

Applaud near misses

You know who never experiences a setback? Folks who never try. Celebrate the fact that you got in the game, then look at what you can learn from it, urges motivation expert Polly Campbell. “I’ve gotten so much out of ‘silver medal’ moments — when I just missed out on an opportunity — because it’s given me feedback that helped me go in a different direction or work on certain skills”, she reveals. “While a flat-out rejection gives you nothing to work with, near misses teach you lessons that translate to specific actions.”

Plan your comeback

Shift your perspective

Looking back on what made a setback sting can boost your longterm motivation, says Miller. “For example, were you trying something new that has a steep learning curve, but you set high standards of success for yourself? You were likely too hard on yourself, and knowing that can help you strategize the next steps. In fact, research shows we have to go through three to seven setbacks to truly achieve our dreams — we need those setbacks to appreciate what it takes to succeed.”

Gather inspiration

It’s always useful to reach out to loved ones for help and advice, says Miller. “Often, just laughing with friends helps change our outlook. Many people find that creating funny stories about the obstacles they faced lightens their mood and reframes difficulties”, she says. “And reading about how others have overcome setbacks can inspire you to do the same; it’s one of the habits we see in the most resilient people who have learned how to remain optimistic.”

Take a do-over

“We don’t make progress in a straight line but rather zigzag our way to success,” notes Campbell. That’s why it’s smart to anticipate any obstacles and make a plan to get around them. So if you want to lose weight, for example, but ate french fries, let yourself off the hook, then start again with something small, like skipping a snack — incremental progress is shown to trigger the release of dopamine that helps get us going again!

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