Time for some truth-telling: things haven't been entirely rosy here at Confident Man Headquarters in the last few months. Life has ups and downs, and I'm certainly not immune to the emotional roller-coaster effect they can cause. They say bad luck comes in threes and I don't know if it's just bad luck, bad karma or whatever, but I do know it hasn't felt all that great lately.
So what's been going on?
Well, firstly I started a new treatment program for Chronic Fatigue and although I'm cautiously optimistic of my health improving, one of the initial side-effects was being hit with a truckload of anxiety which left me feeling despondent, depressed and hopeless.
Around the same time I entered a Theatrical Improvisation (a.k.a. Improv) contest with some new friends of mine; only to withdraw before the contest had even begun because I was feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and stress. Something I loved doing suddenly stopped being fun.
I also quit Toastmasters because I now know enough about public speaking and it doesn't make sense to pursue it any further until my health improves. This meant my social world was shrinking, right at the time I was feeling isolated, ill and anxious already.
Then I came across a scathing critique of this website accusing me of dishonest marketing.
And finally, the latest update to Google's search algorithm cut the search traffic to this site (and hence my income) by about 80%. Thanks big G.
All these things put together really hit me for six, shook my confidence, and trashed my mojo.
OK, enough sob story. The question is: what do you do when a really big setback, or bunch of setbacks, hit you all at once? Here are my suggestions:
Get Some Support
No point suffering in silence. A problem shared is a problem halved; or something like that. I have a bunch of people I talk to when everything seems to be going to shit, ranging from good friends to professional healers that I trust. There is a huge range of healing courses out there that can help you deal with just about any problem you can imagine. You don't have to do it alone. I'll be doing some emotional healing work on my current road trip to help me deal with the anxiety I've been feeling lately, so I can get back to feeling relaxed and confident again; since that's more my true self.
Take Some Time Out
If it's a minor setback, you can probably just plow on through. Most likely it won't be long before your next success gets you back on track. But if it's a really major confidence-shattering setback then perhaps it's time for some radical action.
If you need to curl up in a fetal position in a corner and rock back and forth for a while, that's fine. Just don't stay there too long. Maybe it's time for a holiday to recharge the batteries and get some new perspective on things. I'm currently on a road trip towards warmer weather, and just getting out of my normal environment feels great. Plus there are interesting people to meet, and sources of inspiration everywhere that I don't notice back in the home office.
Work Out Where To Head Next
After you come back from the break, consider whether to keep plugging away at what you've been working on, or whether to head off in a fresh new direction. Perhaps that setback was a way of telling you that you're heading down the wrong path, or maybe it's just an opportunity to learn the art of persistence and patience. The only way to tell the difference is by experience and using your intuition. Both of these require you to make decisions, take action, and then see where you end up. We only really know the best choice in hindsight, and we learn as much from failure as we do from success. Obviously the process of learning through success feels better.
Get Back On The Horse
Whichever way you decide to head, you want to get back on the horse in whatever form feels right for you. Any worthwhile endeavor encounters setbacks that you'll have to deal with, so it's important not to give up at the first sign of trouble. While there's no point wasting time and effort on fruitless activity and there are times to cut your losses, you also don't want to give up too early when success might be just around the corner.
I've recently gone back to dance lessons after several years feeling too ill to go; and it feels great. I also went to the gym a couple of days ago for the first time in 3 years, with no ill after-effects. For me, these are really significant improvements in my health. I also plan to go back to Improv when I get back from my road trip, since it's so much fun.
I'm still learning to learn lessons from setbacks instead of feeling defeated and taking them personally. While I don't exactly enjoy the feeling they bring, setbacks are an inevitable part of life. The only way to avoid them is by playing it safe, and never taking any risks; which will leave you with a boring, unimaginative, and uncreative life.