Bouncing Back from Setbacks: Reboot after disappointments

A few years ago, Arjun served as an academic leader at a regional university for three years. He poured his heart and soul into the role, driven by a mission to make a positive impact. However, during the same period, the university faced a budget crisis exacerbated by the global pandemic. With no alternative, the university had to undergo restructuring, leading to Arjun losing his position and reverting to the faculty.

In the crucible of organizational change, Anjali reached a crossroads after dedicating 15 years to building an influential organizational development team at a leading health system. Committed to nurturing growth for her team, employees, and patients, she confronted a harsh reality when financial constraints forced the restructuring and outsourcing of leadership development and learning initiatives. This unfortunate turn of events resulted in her job loss.

Workplace disappointment can manifest in various ways: a long-term project failing to materialize, missing out on a new position opening up, or your hard work not yielding the expected results.

Faced with a profound sense of loss and disappointment, we find ourselves compelled to respond. In his renowned work “Man’s Search for Meaning,” psychiatrist Viktor Frankl asserted that every person is interrogated by life and can only answer by being responsible. According to him, each of us possesses a responsibility—or the ability to respond.

These narratives reflect the challenges many encounter in their professional journeys, emphasizing the need for resilience and the power to respond positively in the face of unexpected setbacks.

Whether you find yourself just losing a leadership position or missed opportunity, embark on an entrepreneurial journey launching a new business, or are navigating through a personal challenge, the extent to which you can respond effectively (and your likelihood of bouncing back) is influenced, in part, by the way you engage in self-talk. In the following section, we present three user-friendly strategies for fostering positive self-talk. We encourage you to be mindful of your usual thought patterns, develop the skill to identify and counteract negative thoughts, and initiate a reboot after experiencing disappointment.

1. Embrace Positive Self-Affirmations: The Arjun Method

Kickstart your journey with a powerful strategy – the Arjun Method. Combat those pesky negative thoughts by infusing your mind with positive self-affirmations. These phrases, like “I am enough,” “I believe in my dreams,” or “I have the capacity to overcome this moment,” act as a personal anthem, fortifying your resilience in the face of challenges.

Researchers highlight the multifaceted benefits of self-affirmations, citing confidence-boosting, perspective broadening, diminished impact of negative events, and the cultivation of an optimistic outlook. Pioneers in the field, such as David K. Sherman and Kimberly A. Hartson, affirm that self-affirmation resolves the delicate balance between self-protection and self-improvement. Essentially, effective positive self-affirmations equip you to confront reality assertively and flexibly, instilling the courage to explore uncharted territories.

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In a recent coaching session, Radha shared a transformative encounter with a young entrepreneur. Navigating through self-doubt and uncertainty, Radha posed a poignant question during the session: “Imagine a friend in a similar situation – what advice would you offer?” The profound response emphasized the need for self-compassion: “Give yourself some grace.”

Incorporating this wisdom, we learn to extend the same kindness and understanding to ourselves that we readily offer others. Recognizing that progress unfolds gradually, we interrupt negative thoughts: “Today, I grant myself grace. I am in the process of learning.” This shift in perspective nurtures resilience, openness to possibilities, and a compassionate approach to our personal journeys.

In the realm of entertainment, the character Karan Mehra in the popular Netflix show “Sacred Games” offers a compelling lesson in rebooting from disappointment. After facing setbacks in his underworld dealings, Karan embarks on a journey of self-discovery and transformation, echoing the sentiments of self-affirmation: “I am here. I am enough. I am learning to be a better person.”

The Arjun Method and stories like Karan’s exemplify the transformative power of positive self-talk, inspiring us to rewrite our narratives and emerge stronger from life’s challenges.

2. Shift Your Perspective and Embrace Change: The Aarav Approach

Embark on a transformative journey with the Aarav Approach – a strategy that encourages a shift in perspective and acceptance of reality. Witness Aarav’s story as he navigated through job loss, taking a pause for reflection and extracting valuable lessons from the experience. During this introspective period, Aarav sought counsel from his father, who offered a refreshing viewpoint: “Consider this situation as an opportunity, a gift. Focus on your genuine strengths, channelling your time and energy into activities you are passionate about – writing, research, teaching, and speaking.”

Slowly, the wisdom imparted by Aarav’s father resonated, becoming a wellspring of inner strength. Aarav embraced the belief that the current moment was a gift, presenting an opportunity to engage in activities he loved.

Moving beyond disappointment often involves venturing into unexplored territories, a journey accompanied by its cohort of fear and doubt. Confronting these fears, the Aarav Approach advises a change in perspective, altering the meaning attributed to unfolding events.

In Radha’s coaching sessions, a young entrepreneur facing an imminent pivot grappled with the fear of change. Radha posed a pivotal question: “What is holding you back?” The response echoed a common sentiment – a quest for safety.

Gaining Perspective on Negative Events involves taking a step back and analysing feelings without getting lost in rumination. Radha, acting as a guide, encouraged her client to embrace the trembling uncertainty, recognizing that being in this uncomfortable space was part of the journey. Radha urged them to adopt a sassy mantra: “You are right where you’re supposed to be. Navigate the thrilling terrain of the unknown like the audacious protagonist – scared, but oh-so-ready for the plot twist!”

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“Do it scared. You’re already scared anyway,” Radha quipped, challenging her client to confront fear head-on. While acknowledging the terror, she emphasized that it marked a crucial step toward unleashing their genius.

The mantra “You are right where you’re supposed to be” became a rallying cry against the inertia of fear for that entrepreneur. Embracing the unknown is more than a suggestion; it’s a declaration of intent—an audacious move toward realizing our full potential. The Aarav Approach offers a powerful tool to reframe our mindset whenever we confront the unknown, fostering resilience and openness to the limitless possibilities that lie ahead.

3. Explore Profound Questions: The Kabir Perspective

Delve into self-discovery with the Kabir Perspective – a transformative strategy centered around asking profound questions. Kabir’s philosophy acknowledges that most disappointments arise from unmet expectations, whether they involve results, goals, plans, or expectations about people and situations.

Taking inspiration from the meditations of Kabir’s teachings, as articulated by Thich Nhat Hanh, embracing emotions like sadness, anger, or disappointment is key. Rather than resisting, Kabir advocates a return to the breath. Once grounded, posing substantial questions becomes a catalyst for rebooting and initiating the journey of self-recovery.

Kabir’s father, much like Julien’s, alludes to a unique gift in the face of disappointment – an opportunity to reassess priorities, rediscover genuine strengths, and potentially chart a more fitting and joyous path – a personal transformation. Backed by research from scholars like Jack Mezirow, the process of self-transformation results in a new self-definition, a revitalized passion for life, and an enhanced sense of power and freedom. This transformative journey begins with introspective communication triggered by meaningful questions:

  • What are your current dreams?
  • How can you leverage your core strengths this time?
  • What are your aspirations for your career or personal life?
  • What brings you genuine joy?
  • Reflect on moments when you feel at your best – what activities contribute to this?
  • What do others notice when you’re at your best?
  • How will you respond productively to challenges?

The word “question” itself contains the essence of a “quest.” Initiating this inquiry process marks the beginning of a quest to respond authentically.

Disappointment and significant setbacks are inherent in any professional journey. The Kabir Perspective provides phrases to manage your inner voice during these challenging moments:

  • “I am granting myself grace today. I am in the process of learning.”
  • “I am here. I am enough. I am learning to be a better person.”
  • “Do it scared. You’re already scared anyway.”
  • “You are right where you’re supposed to be.”
  • “This moment is a gift, and I can use it to do what I love.”
  • “Return to the breath.”
  • “What will I do to respond?”
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Embrace the Kabir Perspective to navigate setbacks, fostering resilience and empowering yourself to respond effectively to life’s twists and turns.

Always keep in mind that there is no predetermined timeline for recovering and rejuvenating from disappointment. In the early stages of this process, neither of us could perceive the loss of our leadership roles as a gift; the pain was too raw. Before diving into the realm of positivity and seizing opportunities, it’s crucial to be compassionate to yourself. Allow yourself the space and time to genuinely feel the weight of disappointment, shock, or loss.

As you navigate the journey of rebooting from your own disillusionment, we earnestly hope you discover the motivation to extend yourself some grace. Embrace the unfolding learning process, confront any lurking fears, and recognize the transformative potential inherent in every moment. Positive self-talk stands as a potent catalyst for ushering in meaningful change in your life.

Remember, the path to recovery is unique for each individual, and there’s no rush to reach a predefined destination. Initially, comprehending the loss of a leadership role as a potential gift might seem implausible, given the intense emotions experienced. However, before steering towards the positives and opportunities that lie ahead, it’s essential to acknowledge and respect the emotional turmoil within.

In the process of rebooting, be kind to yourself. Granting grace involves accepting the ebb and flow of emotions, understanding that healing takes time, and recognizing that setbacks are an integral part of the human experience. As you navigate through this period, consider it an opportunity for self-reflection and personal growth.

We sincerely hope that amidst the challenges, you find the inspiration to approach your journey with a spirit of resilience. Embracing the learning curve and confronting fears are vital components of the healing process. Each moment carries transformative potential, and by acknowledging this, you empower yourself to move forward with renewed strength and purpose.

Positive self-talk becomes your guiding force during this transformative journey. By affirming your worth, acknowledging the hurdles, and fostering an optimistic outlook, you create a powerful narrative that propels you towards positive change. Remember, the process of recovery is a testament to your inner strength and ability to navigate through life’s complexities.

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