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10 things you can do to snap back from setbacks

I received an urgent email from a 58-year-old friend asking if I could store some of his prized possessions.

I phoned him and said I could, then asked what was going on. He said he’d lost his job, and had run out of money. He went on to say that since he was no longer able pay his rent, he’d taken the last of his money and bought an airplane ticket to Europe where he was going to live with a friend. Other than a few family heirlooms, which he is storing with me and a relative, he is abandoning all of his belongings that wouldn’t fit in a suitcase.

It was such a desperate move that my first thought, in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, was that he was actually thinking of taking his own life. I demanded that he prove he was actually going to Europe, so he showed me the printout of his flight plans, and a Eurail pass. I then tried to talk him out of it, even offering the spare room in my house, but he explained that he’d waited too long to do anything else. I spent the next couple of days helping him get ready.

The economy has caused financial hardship for so many people that the suicide rate among middle-aged men has skyrocketed. I understand how difficult things can get. Over the past decade, between my divorce and the recession, I’ve suffered numerous emotional and financial setbacks. Many times I’ve had to dig deep to find the motivation to keep going. The trick is knowing how to bounce back. As an unknown author once observed, “The bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you refuse to take the turn.” The good news is that resilience can be learned.

I’ve learned that adapting to adversity and managing stressful times begins with understanding that you are not alone. Sadness and emotional pain are more common than you realize. Most people, perhaps because of a fear of embarrassment, keep it to themselves. H. Jackson Brown, author of Life’s Little Instruction Book notes, “Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them.”

The Greek stoic, Epictetus said, “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” In order to be resilient, you must change your perspective. I’ve always found it interesting that the Chinese symbol for “crisis” is the same one they use for “opportunity.” So, if you’re experiencing a crisis, look to find the opportunity.

Here are some things I’ve found that you can do to change your perspective and begin to accept the changes going on in your life:
Talk with someone. It helps to recognize that stress affects your mood; and it is better to express your fears than to deny them. Lean on your network of friends and family, and be willing to accept help. Maintaining good relationships with people close to you is important. Take it a step further and get out and make connections with people. Attend support groups, social events, Meetup.com groups, networking groups, faith-based organizations, and civic clubs. I have to frequently remind myself that, “Good things happen when I get out of the house.”

Avoid bad news. Current events in the news media are often negative, and can make you depressed. Instead watch a comedy, or read a self-help book. Refrain from dwelling in the present; look to the future instead. Persian Sufi poet Attar of Nishapur recorded the tale of a powerful king who asked a wise man to design a magic ring that would make him happy when he was sad. The man gave him a plain ring with this phrase etched on it, “This too will pass.” Remember that tough times are always temporary.

Practise self care. Take care of yourself by eating well and exercising. Healthy meals and regular twenty-minute walks will do wonders to keep your mind and body ready for your next opportunity. Do something fun – perhaps from your bucket list. If you can’t afford that, take on a chore you’ve been putting off. The sense of accomplishment will fortify and energize you.

Engage in self-discovery. See your challenge as a time of learning. The challenges you face today make you better prepared for tomorrow’s opportunities. As Friedrich Nietzsche observed, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” By learning to cope with today’s problems, you’ll find a greater appreciation for life. You’ll develop more self-esteem and confidence.

Keep a journal. Inventory your strengths and accomplishments. Focus on what is good in your life. Also vent – write about your struggles and consider possible solutions. Doing this will often bring the idea you’ve been looking for.

Visualize what you want. Then do something small and achievable that will give you a sense of accomplishment. Ask, “What is one thing I can do today that will move me toward my goal?”

Accept change. It’s part of living; and always brings new opportunities. Keep this wisdom from Helen Keller in mind, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens.”

See life as a journey. When you realize that an achievement is more about getting there than getting it, you’ll find greater happiness.

Be flexible. Stay focused on your goals, but be willing to explore different routes for achieving them.

Volunteer. Helping others puts your problems in perspective. Consider this proverb, “When you dig another out of their troubles, you find a place to bury your own.”

Being resilient means not resisting change. George Armstrong Custer said, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down; it’s how many times you get back up.” I’ll add that it’s okay to ask for a hand up.

– Robert Wilson

• Robert Wilson is an author, humorist and innovation consultant. He is also the author of the children’s book, The Annoying Ghost Kid and the recently-published Wisdom in the Weirdest Places. For info, visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.

Posted: May 4, 2016

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