Most people consider me a very happy person. I am lucky that my baseline is happier than most. I see the good in people and in situations. I find silver linings in setbacks. (I can also find a silver lining inside one of my favorite sportcoats.)
I study happiness like Tim McGraw. Because I like it. I love it. And I want more of it.
But I also embrace unhappiness. Because I have discovered that unhappiness in high enough doses leads to greater happiness.
Mild to moderate unhappiness, as they say in drug commercials, is fairly useless. It simply makes you feel bad.
But serious unhappiness is a gift. When you experience a significant level of unhappiness, whether acute or accumulated, it provides motivation for change.
Motivational unhappiness comes in several flavors, including sadness, frustration, anger, and disappointment. (But not dat-appointment.) You can use any of these forces to your benefit.
So when you feel unhappiness, don’t just feel sorry for yourself. Feel it until it fuels you to make a change. Those emotions are there to tell you to change directions. That’s why your response to unhappiness can save any day. And it can change your entire life for the better.
Happiness is the ultimate goal. But sometimes the path to happiness runs directly through unhappiness. Because in great enough doses, it provides the motivation you need to move forward. Recognize the gift. And use it to your advantage.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.
Long-term success is hard. Partially because short-term success isn’t that hard. It’s easy to string together a couple of quick improvements when you start anything new. Because you start everything new at your lowest level. Which means the first few steps often offer quick wins, confidence, and rewards. You just follow the yellow brick road, and all the little people cheer you on and give you new shoes.
Things Get Harder
But then you run into a non-improvement event. Or the unthinkable: Deprovement. Then you take a few steps back. This is especially common when you have really great success right out of the gate. Because you set the bar higher than you have the capacity to clear with your early skills and experience. #childactors
It Happens To The Best Of Us
But setbacks also occur when you have loads of experience. Because what used to drive better and better results stops working. Frustration sets in. Your confidence takes a kick in the tenders. And there you are at the crossroads of success.
This is your movie moment. This is when too many people quit or give up. Which is the only way to truly fail. When you face such challenges, and challenges will be faced, here’s a recipe to move beyond the swirly-whirly swamp of stalled progress, and fulfill your personal legend.
8 great ways to overcome your setbacks.
- Short-term goals. Set easily achieved short-term goals that get you moving in the right direction again. Make some of them laughably easy. That way you will both meet your goals and laugh. #winwin
- Long-term vision. Remember the big picture. Your long-term goals will not be achieved in one straight push. Keeping the long-term perspective reminds you that this is just a chapter in your story. And adversity helps make every story better.
- Focus on the most impactful area of improvement. Find your one thing to focus on that will have the greatest impact. There are almost always small actions that have huge consequences. Find those actions and take them.
- Forget your failures. Don’t dwell on your failures. Move past them as quickly as possible. Nike Founder and CEO Phil Knight said, “The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.”
- Identify with your successes. Remember that the successful you is the real you. The setbacks and stumbles are temporary and will soon be purged. Like Chris Gaines or Sasha Fierce.
- Take responsibility for your failures. Take complete ownership of your failures and shortcomings. By taking ownership of them, instead of blaming others or making excuses, you are taking full ownership of the solution too.
- Look at other areas of your life. Humans are complex machines. Often a disruption in one area of your life has an impact on other areas. Examine your sleep, your nutrition, your relationships, your other stresses, and your time commitments. Chances are that the challenges you are experiencing in one area of your life are having an impact on other areas of your life as well. Because the hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone.
- Believe in yourself. Have faith in your ability to identify the problem and make the necessary adjustments. Lead your own fan club. Because the person who thinks they can and the person who thinks they can’t are both right.
Setbacks are a key part of any great story. They force you to improve. Which ultimately makes you stronger, smarter, and more capable to face the next challenge. So embrace your challenges. Then go write your next great chapter.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message please share it with them.