Have you ever experienced a situation when things were not going as you wanted or you got distracted and it was a while before you got back on track? What about setbacks? Have you ever experienced an unexpected lay-off due to injury, work or personal commitments that side-tracked you from your original plan? How did you react?

Did you get irritated, frustrated or even angry with yourself? What about wanting to just give up and forget about even attempting to go after your goal? If you were returning to training after the setback, did you expect to train and perform at the same level as you were when you had to stop?

When things do not go according to our plan – either during preparation and training or during a performance such as a race, a job interview or a presentation – we can all become somewhat irritated and frustrated. Yet, the key is learning how to get back on track and continue onwards.

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What happens?

There are times in life when things do not go according to plan – be that with our training, work or personal life. So, developing the ability and resilience to deal with any adversity will help us weather the storms if and when they do happen. When things are not going according to plan or ‘that’ something happens to you, it is natural to be disappointed.

You have stopped progressing towards your goal and where you wanted to go. You might be training for a big race and you get injured, you might be working on an exciting project and get taken off it to deal with more pressing matters, or you might experience a personal situation which takes time and energy away from what you had been doing and where you had been going.

When some people get side-tracked, regardless of the reason, their disappointment turns into frustration and even anger. Also, their internal dialogue can be fired up and that little voice inside their head says things such as ‘… why did that have to happen, particularly at this time?’ or ‘I shouldn’t have done that or let that happen.’

Whatever negative thoughts you might have, if left unchecked, the internal dialogue might spiral downwards out of control from rational and reasonable to thoughts that are irrational and unreasonable. Your confidence may also dip and you may even lose motivation to keep on going.

Dealing with setbacks

The first step to bouncing back is to accept that setbacks do occur. Acknowledge that it is part of life rather than remain irritated, frustrated or angry. Things happen because life happens! You could take the negative view point and say something like, ‘poor me …’ or ‘why did it have to happen to me?’

Alternately, you could take a more positive approach and say something like, ‘right, what is my next step?’ or ‘what can I do to make the most of the situation?’ Taking the positive approach means that rather than dwelling on the negatives and where you are not going, you focus on where you could be going.

This might mean you revise your goals and adjust your expectations – what is important is that you are taking action. Also, when you do get sidetracked, why not take this opportunity to take a look at the big picture of your life. There might be other more important things happening that take precedence.

If you have been laid off with an injury, you will have to accept that you may be weaker, slower or less able to perform at the level and intensity as you could before. If you have not been able to train due to other commitments, accept that those other commitments are more important for the moment and that you will get back to training when time permits.Learn-to-bounce-back-after-a-set-back_2.jpg

Bouncing back

“If you dwell on the negatives, it is like running forwards while looking backwards … kind of hard to do!”

The simple answer to helping yourself bounce back is to let things go. Much like a child watches their balloon drift off skyward, let your frustration about being sidetracked drift off like the balloon.

Focus on moving ahead and focus on what you need to do next. If you dwell on the negatives, it is like running forwards while looking backwards … kind of hard to do! Imagine what it would be like to run, with your head turned and looking behind you. How tough would that be? Might you trip over your own feet?

Well, when you keep hold of those negative thoughts about what has already happened, you are effectively running while looking behind you. By letting the negative thoughts go and focusing on positive thoughts, you are running facing forward! Also, when you do get sidetracked that negative internal voice might be going at warp speed.

So, by becoming aware of the types of things you say to yourself, you can then do something about shifting them to more positive thoughts. To help you do this, write out all the thoughts you have about the situation. Then, as if you were standing back and examining all these thoughts, ask yourself how real they are.

Do you have any evidence to base those thoughts on? If not, let them with something more positive and supportive. You can also examine what happened in an attempt to identify the factors that contributed towards you getting off course. What was within your control and what could you do in the future to minimise any future occurrences?

If you got injured, could you do more strengthening or stretching exercises on a more regular basis to minimise injury? If you were pulled off a project for other pressing work commitments, is there anything you can do if it were to happen again? Can you delegate or develop someone else’s skills to help out?

On a final note

We all experience adversity and setbacks in our lives, be that in sports, or our professional and personal lives. So, recognising when it happens and learning to bounce back will help you to develop the resilience to be more effective in all that you do and weather whatever storms you may encounter.

Recognising when you are off-track and accepting that things do not always go according to plan is the first step to develop stronger resilience. Rather than dwelling on the negatives and feeling sorry for yourself, shift your focus onto something more positive – like taking some action! The important thing is to take steps to either get yourself back on track or adjust your goal.

Key Points

*Accept that setbacks may occur: often in life things do not go exactly according to plan so it is important to accept that this may occur.

*Focus on the positives: rather than dwelling on the negatives, refocus on the positives and take action from where you are now rather than where you thought you should have been.

*Review and revise your goals: it’s a great opportunity to reflect on your goals and determine whether you still want to go after them, in the big picture of your life, or pursue something different.

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