Acceptance of Setbacks

"Still, the road to success is paved with obstacles, and often the only way to make progress is to climb in a nonlinear way. Ups arid downs ought to be expected; depending on the task, there might be prolonged standstills, for instance, when we lose weight in a healthy manner of a pound or two a month. The thinking adult mind is often best served by accepting setbacks as if they were a law of nature. Just knowing that we rarely reach a goal linearly helps buffer against paralyzing frustration.

"We also have to be prepared. It all begins with the right attitude, described here by columnist Ann Landers: 'If I were asked to give what I consider the single most useful bit of advice for all humanity it would be this: Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say, "I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me." '

"Anticipating setbacks prepares us by giving us a certain amount of control. It is often necessary to plan what exactly we will think and what exactly we will do when we hit a setback. The better prepared we are, the easier we will move on. For example, if we are on a diet and our weight has plateaued or we have gained a few pounds, we need to say to ourselves: 'I knew that this would happen at some point. Now is the time to endure this phase.'

"During such a phase, we have to decide whether it is best to keep doing what we were doing, or to treat the setback as an opportunity to learn and to implement changes. For example, if we are trying to lose weight, we might have to change our exercise routine before our body adjusts quickly to any particular one. If we cannot stay on a particular diet, we have to change it to one that we can be on for the rest of our lives. On the other hand, a plateau might be the time our body needs to adjust. In this latter case, we must find ways to weather the setback.

"It always pays to line up various resources ahead of time to help us stay the course. The right type of encouragement at the right time by the right person often decides making or breaking it. We need to commit to a planned arrangement even when we feel sad or embarrassed. Setbacks are not the time to isolate ourselves! Sometimes we need to plan on accessing other resources, such as expert advice, a support group, or a good book. Since we know there will be setbacks, preparing for them ahead of time will spare us much anguish.

"If we feel depressed despite our best efforts, chances are that our ego or I-experience has suffered injury. Ego says we should be greater than we are. Once we have tasted from the cup of success, it may have gotten to our heads just as alcohol does, and we want more to maintain the high. When we fail — and failure is inevitable — we want to slump over and sulk: 'Poor me, poor me, pour me a drink.' The sooner we reconcile ourselves with being human, the sooner we become real and get back on the horse."