Reframing Your Outlook On Setbacks

Setbacks are frustrating.

One moment we are on a roll, everything is going smooth and then bam! A curveball is thrown our way, completely unexpectedly, and our mood goes from all smiles to borderline pissed off.

We all experience this, some certainly more than others. 

But what if there was a way to take setbacks in stride? Where they punch us right on the chin, but like a great fighter we keep pressing forward as if it meant nothing?

I recently read a book by the author of one of my favorite books of all time (A Guide to the Good Life, highly recommended) called The Stoic Challenge

In summary, he introduces the concept of framing and how we are in charge of the way we perceive everything in life, especially when it comes to setbacks. 

From a young age most of us hardwire certain triggers into our brain. For example, when we really wanted a chocolate bar growing up, if we weren’t allowed to have one we most likely had a temper tantrum. 

Now as adults when we go to a restaurant to pick up our to go order expecting the food to be ready, if they were to tell us that they never received our online order, that there’s a delay and it will take another 30 minutes, or if they gave us the wrong food, we’d probably let this situation affect our peace of mind and aggravate us (at least it would for me!). 

As you can see, a trigger like this no longer serves us. It may have worked like a charm when we were a child to get our way (chocolate, yum), but now it’s bringing on unnecessary negative emotions that affect our mood (as well as impacting others around us) that end up lasting much longer than they should. 

So back to the book and the concept of reframing our outlook on setbacks. 

Instead of looking at them from a negative perspective, we can view them as an intentional challenge or test that has been bestowed upon us (it’s up to you to decide who has presented you with the setback, it could be the Stoic Gods, someone you admire and respect, a loved one, etc).

Running into unexpected car problems? Did the air conditioning in your house break? Are you late to an appointment because of traffic? Did someone cut you off and give you the finger? 

You can leverage these setbacks as opportunities to put yourself up to the challenge. 

Try to become aware of them as soon as they arise. At first your triggers will inevitably go off, but if you can recognize and catch them before they escalate, significant progress can start to be made.

Through consistency, we can win the battle over the multitude of setbacks that we must deal with in our lives. 

One way or another, it is completely in our control on how we perceive them. 

Consciously choosing to see them as a test to improve our patience and maintain our tranquility seems like the obvious route to take versus letting our decades old and outdated emotional triggers unconsciously take over and destroy whatever peace and happiness we might’ve felt in the moments leading up to the event. 

Who’s up for the challenge?

You never know, after a while you may even start to enjoy them 😀

“If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.” – Marcus Aurelius