4 Ways Highly Successful People Handle Tough Times and Get Back on Track
We all have times we struggle with stress, doubt, uncertainty, failure and challenges — even the most successful entrepreneurs. Here's how to push your productivity in the right direction after getting knocked down.
Let's face it: we all have bad days, weeks or months. It's nice to imagine that highly successful or happy people don't ever experience struggle, challenge, loss, failure or grief — but that's just not reality. All of us go through rough patches where it feels that nothing is going our way and we can't do anything right.
As I've studied this, I've noticed that highly successful people don't have an absence of failure or misfortune; they simply handle it differently. When you're experiencing tough times, here are a few things you can do to help yourself get back on track.
1. Get back to your old routines and habits ASAP
When we're feeling sad or frustrated about things that haven't gone our way, we often just don't feel like following all the regular routines we do when we're feeling our best.
When we're facing numerous struggles, it's not uncommon for us to compound our problems and make things even worse by skipping workouts, eating less healthy, canceling plans with friends or telling our kids we just don't feel up to playing with them. It's tough to make outbound calls or go the extra mile on a presentation when you're feeling down and out — but this is the time that we need to do these things the most. Eating right, getting exercise, seeing the people we love and doing all the proactive things in our business that we normally would is exactly what will lead us back on track.
After all, these are the activities that make us feel like ourselves and make us successful in normal times, so changing these habits when we're feeling lackluster is a surefire way to make our rut last even longer and for us to feel even more sullen. It's hard to do things when we don't feel like doing them, but if you make the decision to do the right things anyway (regardless of how you're feeling), you'll find that you soon feel much more like yourself.
2. Use a daily planner or calendar to plan your day or week ahead
When we're at our worst, we often don't want to plan or think about what's ahead. When something lousy happens, we tend to focus on that event. We grieve the past instead of focusing on the future. We veg out on the couch with a bag of chips, instead of imagining our next big move or step.
However, when things have gone wrong, there are often answers. Planning out our week ahead by creating a list of the week's most important priorities and goals (then following through) is an important step to getting back on track quickly. This process helps us identify the one or two small steps we can take next to improve our situation. This act keeps us focused on the future and reminds us that regardless of what's happened, we still have choices we can make.
Identifying one or two things that we can do each day is less overwhelming, and it helps us regain a sense of control over what's going on around us. It puts us back into action, and action is how we change our reality. So while you may not feel like planning out the rest of your week, writing down a few things that you can commit to doing — and actually doing them — will help you reclaim purpose in your life. It'll also secure you a few small wins. Once you're in motion and have some momentum, it'll be easier to build more of it.
3. Talk about it openly
Find your most trusted friend or confidante and admit you're struggling. Being vulnerable or courageous enough to admit that you're going through a tough time can be hugely cathartic. You'll often find that your friend or colleague has felt, or does feel, the same exact way, which can help normalize what you're going through.
Sadness or grief often lasts longer when we feel alone in our pain. Learning that others feel the same way, and simply talking it out, helps us recognize that what we're experiencing is normal. It feels good to be heard and understood. Feeling good helps us get over our pain and get back on track more quickly. Also, when we talk about things with someone we trust, we often discover solutions that we couldn't find on our own.
4. Choose gratitude for what is going well
Maybe you didn't get the promotion you wanted; you lost a client; you had a fight with your spouse; you missed an important meeting; you got in a car accident; you gained a few pounds; or you got injured in the race and now need to rehab your knee for a month.
It truly sucks — I get it. However, a few bad events in your life don't mean that your whole life is bad. Taking the time to feel gratitude for the things you have and the things that are going well can help you keep everything in perspective.
It might feel like everything is going wrong, but it's far more likely that only a few things are going wrong. When you wake up each morning and choose to think of three specific things that you're grateful for — or even better, three specific moments or events that happened the day before that you're grateful for — it's hard to feel as sad. By choosing to focus on what's going well and what's good in your life, your brain won't be able to easily play tricks on you and convince you that it's all bad.
Recognize that bad times will come for you. We can't avoid them. Every successful, happy, healthy, wealthy person has tough weeks or months. The key is how we pick ourselves up and get back on track. By following these four simple steps, you'll be able to do it much faster.
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