How to Move Forward After Experiencing a Setback

How to Move Forward After Experiencing a Setback

When we confront our mistakes and embrace them, we can use our moments of disappointment to propel us forward.


Puhhha/ Shutterstock
Puhhha/ Shutterstock

Inner dialogue has awesome power. It can make you think you can achieve something or give up before you even try. Even if you have the ability, you might tell yourself you can’t. Whether you’re starting a new job, pitching an idea to management, or interviewing for a promotion, you can choose which direction your inner dialogue takes. It’s just as easy to affirm your abilities with a positive message as it is to tear yourself down. 

Positive affirmations help you cope better with adversity because they help you see solutions to work/ life problems. They are not tricks to convince you that a situation is better than it actually is. They are prescriptions of encouragement within your reach: “I can do what I set my mind to do” or “I can manage this situation with ease.” 

You become proficient on a regular basis at what you tell yourself. A positive outlook can undo the damage that stress does to your mind and body. It literally helps repair cardiovascular wear and tear. Positive affirmations send the body a different message than negative emotions, creating a calming effect. Think about what positive support you need to give yourself to change the course of your life.

Wrap your arms around failure and success

Everything has its opposite. In order to wrap your arms around success, you must first accept its opposite: failure. I realize that might sound crazy, but you can’t have a beginning without an end, a front without a back, an up without a down. If you’re driving yourself up a wall trying to gain acceptance, you must first accept that gain and loss work in concert. 

Perhaps you want your work proposal to be accepted, but can you accept its rejection? You can accept winning the promotion, but can you accept losing it? You want your family to support your work habits, but are you willing to accept that they don’t? Everything has bookends. To attain what you want, you must be willing to accept what you don’t want. Choosing acceptance fertilizes your motivation to get up and dust off one more time than you fall. When you loosen your attachment to an outcome, it’s easier to accept failure when it comes.

Be open to constructive criticism 

Since you put so much effort into your job, you are probably overly sensitive to criticism. You don’t want to hear even minor constructive criticism. You want praise, the higher the better. But how does that help you grow? Sure, it feels good to be praised, but it’s a problem to get caught up in it. If you always search for praise and ignore constructive criticism, you run the risk of being ruined by praise when you could be saved by helpful criticism.

In order to excel, you can be willing to accept constructive feedback from colleagues, friends, and family members. The only way you can know yourself and succeed is through the mirror of human relationships. If your ego is too fragile to appreciate constructive criticism, then you might as well surround yourself with pets — because they can’t talk back.

Truth be told, you can’t always see the water you’re swimming in. Some criticism can save you from drowning. When you make this attitude adjustment, like good medicine, it makes a bitter pill go down. 

Can you handle constructive criticism without taking it personally? Can you listen with a dispassionate ear and regard it as helpful? If not, what do you need to change to understand that there could be something wrong with what you did, not something wrong with you?

Bryan Robinson, Ph.D., Psychotherapist in Private Practice and Author of 40 books.

Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest book is THE LIZARD BRAIN SURVIVAL GUIDE: HOW TO KEEP YOUR COOL WHEN THINGS DON’T GO YOUR WAY. Previous books include #CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide), and CHAINED TO THE DESK: A GUIDEBOOK FOR WORKAHOLICS, THEIR PARTNERS AND CHILDREN, AND THE CLINICIANS WHO TREAT THEM (New York University Press). He is a regular contributor to, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC’s World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary “Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself.” your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting.


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