Resiliency: Bouncing Back from Setbacks by C. James Jensen

 We all experience setbacks. Whether in business, relationships, health, or finances, life will continue to provide us with challenges. However, it is often not the setback that immobilize us but our own inability to deal with it. For our intentions, Merriam- Webster defines resilience as “An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”

 High-performance people tend to also be highly resilient. When they get knocked down, they bounce back rapidly. In this chapter we will learn and discuss what gets in the way of most people from bouncing back quickly from setbacks, such as:

  • Reluctance to let go of the past and forgive,
  • Distorted perception of the truth, and
  • Their inability or resistance to dissolve anger.

 The information in this chapter is not intended to prevent future setbacks, which are simply part of the human condition, but rather enable you to handle them differently than you may have in the past. My goal is to provide you with tools and techniques that may increase your resiliency and more efficiently deal with future setbacks as you experience them.

 As stated, one key factor in affecting resilience is reluctance to let go of the past. The only time there is, is Now! There is no past, there is no future, and there never will be. And the only time we can be happy is now. Can you be happy yesterday? Go ahead, I’ll wait. No, you can only be happy, or unhappy, now. You might be reflecting on something you did yesterday, but that happiness, or lack of it, you feel is now. Can you be happy tomorrow? No, you can’t be happy tomorrow. Again, you can be happy now thinking about something you plan to do tomorrow, but again, that happiness is right now.

Since the only time we can be happy is now, how much of our nowness is being cheated from experiencing happiness with thoughts lamenting an unhappy experience yesterday? Or worrying (now) about something that may (or may not) happen in the future? That’s why I love the acronym for FEAR: False Expectations Appearing Real.

 So, if we truly desire to be happy and we understand the only time we can be happy is now, then we need to develop the discipline to let go of the past. Mistakes are part of the human condition.Often one of the funniest parts of a movie is at the end where they show the outtakes that occurred in the production of the film. And often those who laugh the hardest at their mistakes are the actors themselves.

 A question to ask yourself: “What percentage of your now time is spent dwelling on events of the past or worrying about things that may or may not happen in the future?” Unhappy people are truly only present a small percentage of their time. For example, let’s say 20 percent of their nowness time is being happy, but 40 percent of their nowness is being sad, because they’re holding onto the previous nows (the past) that they lament, and the other 40 percent of their nowness is experiencing feelings of dread, worrying about the possible outcomes of some future nows.

 Resilient and happy people live in the present and don’t waste their precious nowness dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. They are individuals we might describe as having a positive attitude about life. Yes, they are human, and may still have moments where they might reflect on a poor choice made in the past, or feel anxiety over an upcoming event, but those feelings don’t dominate their waking time.

 I was blessed early in my adult life to have Howard Behar as a partner and senior executive in two companies that I served as president. Later, Howard joined Starbucks, and when he retired he was President of Starbucks International.

 In the two companies where we worked together, we had optional Human Development Programs where employees could learn affirmation techniques and meditation practices. Recently, talking with Howard about his use of affirmations, he shared that at an early age affirmations helped him stay resilient and deal with personal setbacks. The following is what he said:

“When I was in my twenties and thirties, I was constantly dissatisfied with where I was in life. I suffered a lot of depression and anxiety. I started affirming daily, “I am enough, I have enough,

I do enough.” It took a while, but within a five-year period I was more satisfied with where I was in life. That affirmation allowed me to take a lot of pressure off myself and accomplish a lot more. The depression and anxiety disappeared, and I was a lot happier.

 The most difficult thing I had to learn was to love myself. I would beat myself up if I made a mistake or didn’t do the right thing for myself or someone else. I started affirming, “I love myself unconditionally.” I kept that affirmation in my bathroom ensuring I would be reminded more than once to affirm my love and acceptance of myself. I thought if I could love myself in the bathroom I could love myself anywhere. And I do.”

  Reflection Practice

Like Howard, when faced with a setback, I have also found affirmations are a helpful practice that can turn around my attitude and circumstances for the better. It will definitely help us react to setbacks with resilience and courage. For example, this is my personal affirmation: I treat all setbacks as temporary. I am resilient and bounce back quickly from setbacks or misfortune. (To create your own affirmation for a setback, take a look at Chapter 24.)

 Focusing attention to the present is another helpful practice. Ask yourself, Am I replaying a past setback over and over again? If so, use the time to constructively reflect at how you want to do things differently the next time: What is the positive learning experience I can glean from this setback? Afterwards, guide yourself back to the present by sitting quietly, bringing your attention back to the Now with gentle, deep breaths.


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