Dealing With Setbacks

So with the beginning of a new year and the setting of all those wonderful, shiny new goals, we’re also going to be running into setbacks from time to time. These can be small or large, from missing out on one or two daily goals, to falling behind by a few weeks or more. Since we’re only just coming to the end of the first month of the year, hopefully no one has fallen behind too much, but I’ll admit that I’ve already fallen behind on a few things.

It’s frustrating, especially when it’s so early in the year. You just set those goals, right, how could you have fallen behind already? It’s like tripping over your own feet right after the gun fires at the starting line.

Well, yes, it is like that. And you know what you do when you stumble in a run? Keep going. If you’ve ever been in a dead run and tripped, you’ve felt that heart dropping moment where you’re sure you’re about the get real up close and personal with the pavement. There’s no way to stop yourself when you’re going so fast, so what do you do? You either whip your feet back underneath yourself before gravity wins, or you tuck yourself into a roll so the street doesn’t take your face. Either way, your momentum is still going forward. If you’ve managed to keep your feet, then you’ll have lost some speed but still be going, if you’ve popped out of a roll, you’ve lost a little more, but you’ll still have some momentum to work with.

Anyway, awkward analogy aside, the point is to not let setbacks stop you. A setback is a setback, a little stumble in your planned path, not a boulder. The only reason a setback will stop you, is if you stop when one comes along.

Once again using one the commonest examples for new year’s goals, let’s take dieting. You’re going along really well, sticking to your daily calories and feeling great, then one day you just can’t resist having a nice big breakfast. And a nice big lunch. And a nice BIG dinner. And maybe a dessert to top it all off. And you may have had some snacks throughout the day. And maybe a midnight snack sounds good, too. All of that has probably thrown off your calories.

After all those days when you were doing so good, this probably feels like you’ve just thrown away all of that progress. It might feel, the next day, like an empty gesture to try and get back onto the track you were on before your binge day. One day isn’t going to make up for that one you went overboard on… right?

I’m going to admit that I’ve experienced the situation above. Several times, in fact. I’m prepared to say that anyone who’s been on a diet has experienced it at least once. And it’s easy to fall into that kind of thinking, of throwing up your hands and saying to yourself ‘Why bother,’ especially if you let yourself consider that there are probably going to be more binge days in the future. Days where you’re just not willing to stick to your guns and let yourself relax a little bit into old habits.

Well, you could do that. If whatever your goal happens to be just feels like too much, you can always readjust it to something more achievable, change it to something else, or drop it altogether. It’s your goal, after all, and you make the rules. Never forget that part. The one you are holding yourself accountable to, unless you’ve brought in a partner to help keep yourself on track, is just you.

For some of us though, myself included, this doesn’t necessarily help matters, as a setback is often perceived as failure, and failure brings guilt.

So what to do if you’ve come across a setback, you’re too stubborn to give up on those lovely goals you set yourself, and you’re feeling the guilt of having stumbled in your goal-run?

Keep going. You pick yourself up, evaluate what it was that made you stumble, adjust as needed to deal with those situations should they pop up again, give yourself a bit of a pep talk, and keep going. Everyone comes across setbacks. Ev – ery – one. There’s not a single person on this planet who hasn’t stumbled, missed a deadline, or just couldn’t get around to Project X on the day it was scheduled to be done. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed and should give up. It just means you’ll be a little bit behind your schedule, and have to jog to catch back up again.

And if you’re really not going to reach your goal? That’s okay, too. Look at what you set yourself, look at what you’ve achieved already, and ask yourself if you would have gotten so far without having set yourself that goal in the first place. Even if you haven’t reached your finish line, I’m willing to bet that you’ve still gotten more done than you would have if you hadn’t set those goals in the first place.

Be kind to yourself when you stumble, remember that you’re human, and then keep going. The only one that can really stop you is yourself – discounting any major, life changing events – and so long as you’re still willing to try and reach your goals, you haven’t failed. So long as you’ve made some progress towards your goal, you. Haven’t. Failed.

Roll with it, retie those shoelaces to keep from tripping on the same thing again, and keep on moving towards that finish line!


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