How To Bounce Back From Any Setback, According to Psychology

 

 

In the perennial search for growth, success and failure go hand-in-hand. Just as there can be no night without day, one cannot truly succeed without the benefit of learning from past failures. The vast majority of us know this, but implementing it in our lives is another ball game entirely.

What is it, then, that makes some people throw in the towel at the first sign of difficulty, while others can literally keep getting back up and jumping back into the ring after every fall?

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Why does it seem like some people just popped out of the womb made of steel, while others seem much more easily affected by the smallest negative events that occur in their lives? Is this steeliness, this strength of will—resilience, in a nutshell—something that some people just naturally have, while others don’t?

Yes, and no. On one hand, there are a plethora of reasons outside of our control for one person’s relatively higher resilience than another’s—individual life experiences, upbringing, innate personality traits, and so on. On the other hand, psychological resilience is also a learnable skill; one that can be taken control of, honed and sharpened with time and effort.

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In fact, as early as 1990, positive psychologist Martin Seligman, for one, established the “3P” framework of resilience that determines a person’s ability to bounce back from any setback. As it turns out, decades of psychological research on resilience points to these three determining factors; here’s what they are and why they’re so crucial.

P.S. Fortify yourself with the skills to know how to bounce back from any workplace challenge; sign up for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on managing workplace challenges with resilience today!

 

 

1. Personalisation

What it is:

  • Self-blame
  • Taking the setbacks in your life personally and believing that you inadvertently caused it

 

Why it’s self-sabotage:

So often, the setbacks that befall us have far less to do with us than with things that we can’t control. This is why it can be difficult to accept the reality of what has befallen you. Indeed, one of the hardest things about the process of letting go of the disappointment of a setback is letting go of the “what if”s.

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Self-blame—and the resulting self-pity it creates—is one surefire way of holding on to the thought of “what could have been.” It only engenders the kind of rumination, regret, and worrying that keeps you stuck in the past instead of moving forward.

 

How to cure it:

  • Accept that “it is what it is”
  • Acknowledge that there are things that are out of your control, and while you can’t necessarily control the bad things that happen to you, you’re always in charge of how you choose to respond to it

 

 

2. Pervasiveness

What it is:

  • Catastrophic thinking
  • Interpreting one specific negative event in one aspect of your life as something that will affect your entire life, instead of just that particular aspect of it.

 

Why it’s self-sabotage:

Containment is a crucial part of any crisis management strategy. In this case, when a setback occurs either at work or in life, learning how to contain it appropriately is a vital skill. Negativity itself can be addictive; what you perceive and interpret about things will become your reality. After all, “I think, therefore I am.”

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If you think that your whole life will be destroyed just because one aspect of it (for example, your career) isn’t going well, you will react and respond according to that perspective, thus unintentionally turning your perspective into an unfortunate reality.

 

How to cure it:

  • Recognise that life goes on; not everything that happens to you will wreck your whole life.
  • Life goes on regardless; only one or two aspects of your life will be directly affected by the setback, while others remain relatively stable.

 

 

3. Permanence

 

What it is:

  • Excessive pessimism
  • Thinking that the negative effects of a particular setback will be permanent

 

Why it’s self-sabotage:

Believing that the aftermath of a failure in your life will always stay with you keeps you chained to the past instead of moving forward with a view towards self-improvement. The more you allow your own negative thinking to cling on to you, the less reason you will feel to climb out of the darkness proactively towards a better future.

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How to cure it:

  • Realise that nothing lasts forever; neither the good nor the bad
  • Remember that things will get better, without denying the reality of your negative emotions at the moment

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