When you encounter setbacks in life or find yourself face-to-face with challenging professional and personal situations, it’s easy to feel discouraged.
One antidote to losing heart is finding a philosophy that you can apply to your experience every time you’re disappointed with people or circumstances in your life, either in the office or at home.
One such framework that has been helpful to many clients who I work with as a life coach, career coach, and executive coach here in New York is to re-imagine troubling scenarios in the light of lesson-learning. If everyone in your life from your supervisor, colleagues, and clients to your family members and friends were here to teach you a lesson, then:
- What is the difficult client here to teach you?
- What is the micromanaging boss here to teach you?
- What is the false friend here to teach you?
- What is the person who’s unkind at the subway station here to teach you?
Similarly, if everything that happens in your life holds a message of how to approach things more effectively next time around:
- What is the failed presentation here to teach you?
- What is the poor annual review here to teach you?
- What is getting laid off here to teach you?
- What is dissolving a partnership either with a business partner or life partner here to teach you?
Reframing your focus to look for the lesson can help you move beyond disappointment or self-doubt much more quickly. What you place your attention on expands in your mind, so choosing to interpret difficulties as lessons is a smart strategy to help you stay positive and forward-thinking.
Here are three ways to develop the healthy habit of viewing other people and situations simply as teachers along your path of career and personal growth:
Ask yourself some questions.
When challenging circumstances or difficult people threaten to send your mood south, step back and ask yourself:
- What is this trying to teach me?
- What lessons can I learn to avoid this type of encounter or circumstance down the road?
- Can anything positive come of this?
- What will I do differently in the future?
Turning immediately to this list of questions when you suffer a setback can help you stay grounded in effective action, rather than feelings of rumination or recrimination.
Look for patterns.
Sometimes when you have an unresolved issue, you’ll find the same thing happening over and over. Similarly, you may feel like you keep meeting the same type of difficult person in every job, or experiencing similar conflicts in different settings. When you notice such patterns, the key is to first bring awareness to the repetition, and then try to determine what’s keeping you blocked with this particular issue or personality type. If you take time for self-reflection and/or work with a coach to help you understand what may be causing these patterns, you can likely stop the cycle and avoid riding the same merry-go-round again.
Focus on potential positive outcomes.
It’s easy to identify the negatives of an unpleasant encounter or failure. But it takes more effort to find what might be good about something happening. In most situations, there really is a silver lining. It may take a while to realize its effects, but even the worst circumstances in time bring wisdom and greater understanding to sufferers. Look for the gift within every setback.