During coaching training I was given the task of exploring how other people deal with setbacks. Before I began asking people I took a guess at what many of the responses would be. I surmised that there would be a group of people who would experience the setback like a blow – fret about it for a bit, and then persevere with a ‘life goes on mentality’. I know that is without saying much, as it kind of leaves a huge blank space for interpretation on what exactly goes on in people’s minds they being the grueling process of pushing through. Lastly I predicted that wiser people, perhaps older people would have healthier ways of dealing with setbacks than younger, or more sheltered people.
As I began my inquiries, I gleaned that there were three common themes in the responses given. The first theme I noticed was aligned with my prediction that there would be what some people would call ‘unhealthy’ ways of dealing with setbacks. Although – honestly, in today’s society these seemingly unhealthy methods that were shared with me are socially acceptable and justifiable in today’s society and in a variety of contexts. Some of these methods included drinking alcohol, smoking pot, overeating, and ruminating. Some people’s egos were so obsessed with determining whether the setback was their fault even though, deep down, they knew how little that mattered. Older people who had more ‘healthy’ coping mechanisms admitted to engaging in the former when they were younger and more sensitive to the strength of the blow that ultimately lessens as you live and learn. This struck a chord with me… people can choose to learn from their challenges and engage, or numb and disengage. Those who engage may feel more pain initially – yet they move through it with more grace and less scarring. People who disengage may always feel the sting, or let it become an unfortunate part of ‘their story’ as opposed to a lesson. As you can imagine, the more healthy forms of resiliency included reorienting. Taking a step back to determine if there is anything they could do to fix their situation, and if so, what steps to take. If there was nothing they could do they would begin to move into acceptance.
Although the next response I am going to discuss isn’t necessary a theme, I thought it raised a great point. One person said setbacks feel like an actual physical blow, and that they would treat it as such, with lots of rest and recovery. This further demonstrates the importance of engaging and working through the setback, because many challenges do elicit a psychosomatic response (involving both mind and body), and if that response is left untended it can leave a scar.