In life, there comes a time when you want something and it doesn’t work out. We’ve all been there, it’s definitely something you just have to learn to deal with, since setbacks are a part of life. However, it’s not dumb or immature to be sad or even angry when it happens. It doesn’t even have to be anything major, sometimes even the smallest things can get to us. It’s still good to be aware of how exactly do you tend to react when facing a setback – is it necessarily the best way in order to keep your peace and move on?
They say you create your life but that’s partly not true. You can decide what you want to pursue, and you can decide to never give up on it, but everything else is not in your power. You can decide to start studying another field, but you can’t control how difficult it is to get into a school you want to study in. You can decide to go on a round-the-world trip, but you have no control when a virus takes over the world and countries close their borders from you and your travel plans. You can decide to go on tinder dates, but you can’t control who your tinder date chooses to be with, and hopefully you won’t even try to.
Even if you pursued nothing and decided to stay in your comfort-zone forever, life goes on and things happen no matter how hard you fight against it. You might get seriously ill tomorrow, your home could burn to the ground, someone you love could be hit by a car, and it would change everything in the blink of an eye. Letting go of life-restricting fear and control is difficult, but to achieve peace you need to realize that in this life, mostly you can only control how you react to whatever happens in your life.
So how do you react?
This article by VeryWellMind.com talks about a theory by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross that there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Her theory has since been questioned, but there’s no doubt many of these are relatable also when you’re dealing with other losses in life. Whatever setback it may be, I’d say the following are very common ways to react. It’s best to remember you actually CAN decide which option you go with.
A. You can stop trying and have a pity party for yourself. Might sound funny but it actually isn’t. This party is for yourself and your hundred other personalities that have an opinion about how it all went down. Party activities include adding salt to your own wounds by thinking about other old mistakes you’ve made and things that have been said to you that still hurt your soul. You might convince yourself you’re a failure and should never try anything again.
Has anyone had this or is it just me? Okay. I don’t believe you. But really, it’s sad how so many people choose this option and never get back up after it.
B. You can fight against whatever just happened. You can make a mess out of it and fight back. Just know the difference when there is something you can still do about it and should fight for it, and when it’s a lost cause and you just can’t let go. Whatever that is, know that you’re still clinging.
C. You can stay bitter. Never forget, never forgive and never do anything about it. Your hurt ego can’t let go and doesn’t even want to. This one is perhaps the most toxic way to react to life’s hardships because you’ll only end up hurting yourself more. Nelson Mandela once said:
D. You can let go. Life is short and new options and possibilities will come your way. Dwelling on things that you never got will keep you awake at night and disturb your inner peace. Very few things are worth it, if any. You really need to practise and sometimes go the hard way to realise clinging onto things will only make you feel unhappy and trapped.
A quote from a book called Mindfulness for Life – How to Use Mindfulness Meditation to Improve Your Life written by Craig Hassed and Stephen McKenzie: “To be peaceful and happy we have to accept things that we don’t like when they come, and we have to let go of things that we do like when they go.”
To be honest, I even think there’s one more option E: you can let your setbacks fuel you. Many self-help books include stories about people who have gotten over VERY difficult obstacles like cancer or a loved one’s murder, and they decided this wasn’t going to push them to the ground for good – they would decide to help others and it would become something bigger than them. Helping others could be the magic words you’re looking for and the best therapy you could ever get.
I remember once reading a forum where someone asked people have their lives gone as they planned. So many answered that they got something they wanted and some things they didn’t, BUT got something better instead. Many of them could see why it all went like it did, eventually at least. It only shows that you can’t control what comes, you can only trust that you’ll survive it, and if something doesn’t work out, you’ll get something better than you planned.
Trust life, do yourself a favor and let go. No matter where you are, close your eyes, put the thing in your mind into a little boat in a river and let it sail away. Breathe. That river is like your life. It keeps on flowing no matter what comes along. Bigger fish, small fish, heavy boats and stormy days, it keeps on flowing. Some things work out, others don’t, but trust that whatever is meant for YOU, will come to you.
It’ll be okay.