3 ways to get back on track during setbacks

Having challenges in life is inevitable. What more when you are in a startup. Before you fix your current challenge, your next one is right at the door step.

I would consider myself emotional. I easily get beaten up by setbacks and keep on dwelling on the same problem again and again .

That was last time. 

After practicing mindfulness and after I started a reading habit, I learnt the following 3 ways that would help me during setbacks.  

3 ways to get back on track during setbacks: 

  • Focus on what you can control.
  • Understand it's part of your learning journey. Celebrate them. 
  • Learn to love yourself more. 

  1. Focus on what you can control 

    When problems happen, I often dwell on the same problem and complain how things are not fair! I've put in the most efforts, I've a better product and I've a better team, but why are we not funded? Why did I get into this bad deal? Why is our app crashing so often? 

    We tend to see things only from what our eyes prefer to see: That the world isn't fair. Energy is spent complaining and blaming, which are not productive at all. This may cause bigger problems coming your way because you are focusing on how the world isn't fair to you. Which unfortunately, that is something you can't control.

    Why not change your perspective the next time this happens. Learn to accept the problem has happened. Embrace it. And focus your energy on what you can control. 

    How I practiced focusing on what I can control and life got so much easier!
    During COVID-19, my family were worried about infections from food delivery. We try to cook at home as much as possible. But my sister thinks that we may not be eating well. She kept on sending food delivery to us even though she's overseas. She sent over steak from a fine dining shop, expensive fish noodles, roasted pork and duck dishes and sometimes really nice fruits too, new delivery coming in every 2 - 3 days. She would only let us know 5 minutes before the delivery arrives at our door step.

    I was very worried because of the increased cases of COVID-19. Mum and dad needs to cut down sugar and sodium intake too. Doctor advised mum to take less bad oil and consume only olive oil. But yet from my sisters' point of view, enjoy life, eat well is more important.  Unfortunately, Being the youngest, I know my sister won't listen to me. So mum and dad hinted to her but she doesn't listen too and say it's for their good. They were afraid she would get angry.

    In order not to make things difficult for mum and dad and not to start arguments by trying to change my sister, I set a new rule at home. When food deliveries arrive, we need to wipe down the packaging. Even though the food are still hot, we need to reheat them to kill any possible virus. If the food is not good for their health, they can eat but less. Keep them in the fridge or gift them to our neighbours or friends if it's something that we can't eat or finish eating.

    I ignored what I can't control (My sister) and focused on what I can control (Change of ways we handle food).

    By changing my focus to what I can control, which is to manage the food delivery well, we were able to avoid arguments. Mum and dad do not need to find excuses to stop sis from sending food over and occasionally they get to continue enjoy nice fruits (The approved delivery type haha! ) she sent too.

    What's NOT under my control: Funding did not come in. 

    What's under my control: Accepting that the funding will not come in. Now focus on the next strategy. Plan B, or C. Time to pivot. Time to focus on growth with minimal fund. 

    What's NOT under my control: That the deal is a bad deal. I made the wrong decision signing on that agreement. What's under my control: Exit the deal even though it means starting all over again. Don't expect things will change.

    What's NOT under my control: The site is down. What's under my control: Let's focus on working as a team to fix the problem. Be part of the problem solving team. Not get discouraged with the problem and push everyone else to deliver. 

    I hope I learnt all the above earlier and focus my energy on what I control. That way, I could have gone further faster.
    Yet, these are all part of the learning journey which I realised only because the challenges happened. 

  2. Understand it's part of your learning journey. Celebrate them.

    If these setbacks did not happen, I may still be that proud, ignorant and emotional person, thinking that I can get anything I demand and ask for.

    After all, I always believe that learning is most effective when you are "pushed into the pool to learn how to swim".

    Try to celebrate challenges and setbacks because "Yay! It's another opportunity to learn!" because "The Obstacles is the way". 
    The Obstacle is the way. Book by Ryan Holiday

    I know it's tough and it does sound irrational.

    But try to change your mindset about challenges. Take them as an opportunity given to you to learn something new and make it exciting! That helps your mind to get focused on getting curious and challenged to face the problem. 

    How I accepted its all part of the learning journey and saved the team.

    Recently, I faced challenges on work productivity with my work partners. The promised delivery timelines were delayed. The scheduled meeting was forgotten. Some tasks assigned were ignored. It must be because no one is interested to work anymore!

    As someone who sees efficiency with utmost importance, I feel very agitated. I have goals clearly set. I move fast. But the team did not. I dwell on the problem for some half an hour, complained about it and think about what I can control. I also remembered my learnings from the book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Will Not Do, that setbacks are part of the learning journey.

    Instead of dwelling on the problem, I turned curious. I want to learn about why these issues happened. I want to solve this challenge like a quest. I get to learn something learn today. 

    I called them up to find out what went wrong. One of them was waiting for another to complete his work before he can proceed. He thought it isn't that important, therefore the delays. Another mentioned he's stressed over work delivery because he knows I have expectations. He's trying to please me. But unsuccessfully. He has been spending a lot of time on work but new issues keep coming up, followed by another, and another which means he's switching from one task to another, and unable to focus in getting any one done! 

    I shared with the first that he needs to remind and tell others that he's waiting, else we won't know. But I also realised our task management process is broken - which is my responsibility. I learnt that a clearly organised task management tool can keep each other informed on what they are working on, helping with the team's efficiency. 

    I shared with the latter member that I appreciate his dedication and didn't know he was stressed.  I realised it's my expectations that have caused him to be unable to focus - because I kept on messaging him new issues and new findings and he thought I have expectations to have them attended immediately - which in fact, I did not! I can actually wait but because of my high work efficiency, I delegate and share fast. I shared that I will share the importance level in the future and that I would stop sending him information through private messages. I'll create cards in the task management tool with clear timeline/expectations so there won't be any wrong impression of urgency. I also shared tips on how he can better manage his time with setting priorities so he can focus at getting ONE THING done at a time too.
    Through this setback, the team have learnt about each other. We are glad the issues happened which allow us to understand each other and this could help the team to work better together in the future too.
  3. Learn to love yourself

    When I'm faced with a setback, I would often feast with snacks, crab or alcohol. Alone. I would feel sick the next day. (WHY!!!! Why do this to yourself, Kam Ling! WHY!) 

    Exactly. Why do this to yourself?

    I know it's tough. He scolded you in front of everyone because you performed badly. She planted a "bomb" on you. He betrayed you. You screwed up the presentation. Things didn't go as planned. 

    When everything went wrong, live better. Treat yourself well. Because you deserve better when everything else went wrong. 

    Things will go wrong, always. It doesn't mean that you should give up, stop trying or blame yourself. 

    People with positive self-esteem are happier and achieve more in their life because they believe in their own capability. They love their ability to stand up again, try again, stop dwelling in the problem and they give themselves a pat on their back simply with having the courage to stand up again and love themselves. 

    Understand that these setbacks are impermanent. It is just passing by, why let them affect your happiness?

    Gratitude is also an act of self-love. Turn to what you are grateful in life when you are faced with crisis. Focus on what's great about you and your surroundings can help motivate and bring you hope.
    Custom Journal App: A way to practice self-love and gratitude

    One way to practice gratitude is to do it on a daily basis by writing it down in a gratitude journal. I use Custom Journal App. Occasionally I would also practice gratitude with mum by sharing our top 3 things we are grateful about each day. This helps us to reflect on the day and focus on good things that happen around us, loving ourselves more because of the good things we have today.