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We get hit by a curve ball. A surprise out of nowhere that hits us like a ton of bricks. A setback.

The chaos of life affects us all at some point in time. We get a setback at work. A setback in our relationship. A setback in business. And sometimes that setback can make you question everything. You freeze because you don’t know what to do. You’re so emotionally wrapped up in the shock of what happened that you can’t think straight.

And your forward momentum seems to unravel right in front of you dashing any hopes of creating a life that you desire. The seed of uncertainty settles in our mind as we settle in to the chair of despair.

Here are 3 tips I learned on how to move on after a setback and it reflects the 3 rules that are part of my mantra:

1. Accept

It’s not easy. But holding on…to why it happened is not going to help us move on after a setback. It only hurts, further debilitating our body from the forwardly motion that we so desperately need.

Let me give you an example. Some months ago, my wife who owns a small business, encountered a setback. One of her long standing customers got upset at a misunderstanding and left her place of business. Then that customer proceeded to post an awful review on one of the big social media sites on the internet. Out of thousands of customers my wife’s business had, this one bad review caused a lot of problems because search engines are not very forgiving when it comes to the negative, while satisfied and happy customers don’t complain and go about their business.

The consequence of this event was a slowing down of business, which for any small business person is a big deal.

For a while both my wife and I were paralyzed by this setback because we wanted to understand all the reasons “why” this happened. Why me? How could this happen? We did everything we could to prevent such a problem and how could this setback happen?

When we continuously focus on the why that setback happened, guess what happens? We find plenty of blame but no authentic answers. Instead we get more pain, heartache and stress. This is because we get what we focus on.

After a few weeks of feeling down and out, something inside of us just got angry. We got mad at ourselves at being so down. Ultimately, we realized that what happened is in the past. We learned to let go and simply ACCEPT.

Tweetable: Once you accept the chaos of life, you begin walking forward.


2. Remind yourself why you are on the path

Any setback can make you question everything. The pain, stress and frustration makes us think twice about why we do what we do forcing our mind to ask difficult questions. Do I really want to be in this relationship? Why do I work so hard for this business? Is it really worth it?

These questions should not be ignored because that’s life’s way of reminding us why we are on this path.

Tweetable: Facing hardships on your journey is life’s way of forcing us to be certain of our purpose.

The idea here is to listen to those hard questions our mind has put in front of us and not to dwell on it but to forcefully answer it right back with strength and certainty. “I’m doing this because I believe…” This is the response that allows us to break free from the overthinking that can happen when those questions are posed.

By reminding ourselves of the reason we are pursuing our goal – to help others, to make a better life for ourself and our family – by saying our reason for pursuing our goal with certainty and confidence, we can start our process to move on after a setback. If we don’t have that certainty of our goal, then it’s life reminding us to pick another goal. Setbacks are a test of our faith in ourselves and our purpose.


3. Put your energy into something useful – get right back to work

One powerful way to break the pattern of overthinking when we encounter a setback is to identify something very specific to do that will be productive. And then just do it. Take massive action.

For my wife and I during the time of the setback in her business, we dug in and refocused and redoubled our marketing efforts. In her case – instead of having just an awesome website for her business, we started a blog for her to start talking directly to a broader audience about some things that customers care about. She also started doing some innovative things such as going on a speaking tour in her community, preparing for her talks til the wee hours of the night.

She upped her game by digging deep within and forcing herself to bring out fresh, new ideas for growing her business.

Taking focused and massive action helps us to move on after a setback because it allows us feel certain again. A certainty that lies in knowing that our actions moving forward create the impetus to move on after a setback.

Using that anger, frustration and worry caused by that setback and rechanneling it to working on a specific task, can help us break free and move on from that setback.

Tweetable: I believe that setbacks in life come to us for a reason: To wake us up and make us learn, to force us to dig within to discover who we are truly meant to be.


Bob Miglani, Author, Embrace the Chaos: How India Taught Me to Stop Overthinking and Start Living (coming out October 7, 2013)

By Bob Miglani

Bob Miglani is the Author of the Washington Post Bestseller, Embrace the Chaos, which is about learning to move forward in times of change, uncertainty and disruption. He grew up running his family's Dairy Queen store, the subject of his first book, Treat Your Customers. He worked in corporate America for 23 years. Left to pursue a life of passion working in a startup, writing, motivational speaking and learning how to live a life of contribution.

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