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Learning To Bounce Back

The other day I was reflecting on a situation that didn’t quite go the way I had planned. My initial reaction was to get annoyed, then I quickly shifted to trying to find myself or someone else to blame, before I shrugged my shoulders and decided to get on with developing Plan B. This made me wonder how we learn to bounce back after a setback.

Even with the best made plans, setbacks are inevitable. Over the course of our lives and our careers we encounter setbacks, whether it’s losing out on the perfect house, being passed over for promotion, or even just missing the bus. Sporting legends are often admired for their ability to bounce back after disappointments with mental toughness recognised as one of the cornerstones of high performance.

Like elite athletes, the ability to manage setbacks is recognised in successful leaders. However, it’s how we deal with setbacks that can distinguish a great leader from a good one. What do you do when things don’t go your way? Think about the last time you encountered a set back, did you take it on the chin and make lemonade from life’s lemons or did you have a mental moment and fall apart blaming yourself and/or others?

Mental resilience isn’t something that you’re born with. Like many skills it can be developed and mastered over time. Mental resilience is enhanced by a high level of self-awareness and emotional control; it involves our behaviours, thoughts and actions.

Mentally resilient people have the following things in common:

They are focused on their goals: By focusing on their goals, mentally resilient leaders will take setbacks in their stride and quickly look for alternative solutions to get to their goal. They don’t waste time wondering what could have been, they keep working on what will be.

They keep things in perspective: Mentally resilient leaders know that failure comes with risk. They play the long-game and recognise that setbacks are a part of the journey.

They practise positive self-talk: Mentally resilient leaders believe in themselves. They don’t beat themselves up over a set-back or judge themselves harshly. They are confident in their abilities while at the same time they don’t expect to know everything.

They take care of themselves physically: Physical well-being is a core component of mental resilience. Mentally resilient leaders know that if they’re hungry or tired they’re less likely to maintain a positive mindset and more likely to react emotionally to a setback.

In an afternoon of musing I found the answer to my question, whether we see setbacks as a road bump or a road block is within ourselves. We learn to bounce back from setbacks through greater self-awareness and emotional control. By managing our behaviours, thoughts, and actions we learn how to mentally move on.

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