A recent Time Magazine cover story, “The New Frugality,” suggests the recession has changed our perspective – not just for the short term, but for the long term. I hope so. Suddenly, Americans are saving again. We’re eating at home with our families more. We’re being more thoughtful about how we spend. In the process, we have a chance to change bad financial habits and to reconnect with the people and things that matter. Depending on how you approach it, a setback can leave you better – or it can leave you bitter.
Whether financial or otherwise, setbacks can feel cruel and unfair. You were cruising along, heading towards a destination – and suddenly, you land back where you started or maybe even somewhere worse. It could be a small setback – you lost 15 pounds, but recently gained back five, or you finally built up your savings only to have an emergency wipe it out. Or maybe it’s a big setback – a relationship deteriorates or you lose your job or business. None of us ever wants a setback, but when it happens, let yourself mourn your loss. Then make a decision to not just go through it, but to grow through it. Frustrating as it may be, it is what it is. If you let go of lamenting “what shoulda/coulda/woulda been,” you realize that what seems like the end could be a new beginning. When you have time to recover, setbacks give you a chance to hit the reset button on your life.
I learned the power of turning setbacks into comebacks from my mother, who by all medical accounts, should have lost her life in 2001 when she suffered a massive brain aneurysm and underwent brain surgery. Instead of losing her life, she only lost her physical abilities. But over time and with persistence, she was able to walk, talk, see and swallow again. Today, she describes her life as better than it was before her disabilities. Why? Because she had the courage to make changes that created the life she really wanted. Sometimes setbacks can only be understood in retrospect, when we see that without them, we couldn’t have become the person we were meant to be.
Psychologists have identified something they call “post-traumatic growth,” to describe people who not only bounce back from major trauma and setbacks, but become better because of them. How about you? Will you become better because of your setback – or just bitter? Consider a setback you are facing – whether financial or otherwise – and coach yourself with these three questions:
1. What message or lesson is being offered to you in your setback?
2. What will you do differently as a result?
3. When you stop looking back at the problem and start looking ahead to the future, what opportunity lies before you?
I’d love to hear your comments. Has the recession caused you to be smarter with your money, connect with family more, or be laid off from a job or industry you didn’t like anyway? Are you better or still feeling bitter?
Valorie Burton is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), speaker, and author of five books, including Listen to Your Life, Why Not You? 28 Days to Authentic Confidence, What’s Really Holding You Back? and How Did I Get So Busy? Subscribe to her free e-newsletter at www.valorieburton.com and follow her at www.twitter.com/valorieburton.