How do you respond when life doesn’t go your way? Have you ever expected a result that never came to fruition?
Maybe you were expecting to be promoted, only to have the promotion given to someone else?
Or maybe you planned to lose “x” amount of weight for a special occasion, only to have that day roll around and you can’t fit in the outfit you bought ahead of time.
Maybe you were planning to make Varsity in your sport, only to be put on the JV team.
Specific scenarios aside, we have all had dreams and expectations that never come to fruition.
You can do every visualization activity, practice and put in the work, but there will still be times where you don’t achieve the goal you’re aiming for exactly when you’re aiming for it. That’s called life. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: life doesn’t always go according to plan.
And while circumstances can disappoint and frustrate us, they NEVER define us unless we let them.
So then, the question is: when life doesn’t go according to plan, how do you respond?
Your response to your circumstances is what defines you. It shows your character. It tells the world, when faced with adversity, this is who I am. So it’s important to present your best self when obstacles arise, as they always will.
Here are a few ideas on how to respond when life doesn’t go your way:
1. Keep working toward the original goal
Let’s use a fitness goal for an example here. Say that you had the goal of completing your first bar muscle-up by the last CrossFit Open and failed to do so in 19.3.
If you have a fight response, you are not going to let that goal die. Rather than give up, you are going to double down on skill work to improve your technique. You will add in extra accessory workouts to build strength. Then when your next attempt date rolls around, you will be better prepared than you were beforehand.
This type of response shows perseverance, tenacity, and the willingness to fight through setbacks and disappointment. If the goal is still possible, keep trying. Don’t give up until it becomes clear that the goal is unattainable.
2. Identify a new goal and pursue it
There are some goals that may never come to fruition. For example, if it was your goal to be promoted at your office and another colleague received the position, you cannot continue to pursue that job.
However, you can identify different opportunities for advancement or improvement in your career. Perhaps there is a lateral move in a different department that might challenge you more. Or if you’ve been stuck in the same position for many years, you can look at this as an opportunity to try out a new career field!
This response shows that you are realistic and pragmatic. You understand when you’ve done everything you could to achieve your goal and when it is time to move on.
While it’s great to move past setbacks and keep working toward your goals, it’s also important to be honest with yourself when the goal is out of reach.
3. Adjust your timeline or METRICS
For example, if you’ve only lost 5 pounds between January and April and your goal was to lose 15, you don’t need to give up on your goal of losing weight. You also don’t need to find a new goal. You can simply adjust your metrics and your timeframe.
If the weight isn’t coming off as quickly as you’d like, make smaller, more achievable goals. For example, instead of saying you’ll lose the remaining 10 pounds by x-date, try making the goal of losing 1 pound every week for a month. That’s easily trackable and gives you frequent measuring points, which may help you stay encouraged and moving forward.
This option shows that you know yourself and you aren’t going to give up. You know what matters to you and you won’t go down without a fight. But you also know when you need to give yourself grace and adjust your expectations.
The only option we didn’t include in here is to give up, because it isn’t an option. Not really. Because giving up on your goals when things go south is giving up on yourself. You can change directions and adjust your expectations and goals all you want, but giving up on a dream without giving it everything you have is just not an option.
Don’t let setbacks keep you from putting your best foot forward. You may not always know how to respond when life doesn’t go your way at first, but give it time and never give up.