Home Careers Rebounding from Setbacks: When You Fall, How Do You Get Back Up?
Rebounding from Setbacks: When You Fall, How Do You Get Back Up?

Rebounding from Setbacks: When You Fall, How Do You Get Back Up?

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By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management at American Public University

Some people walk away from conflict, because they are afraid of “falling.” Unfortunately, there will be times when you know it’s time to reach out even though you will have setbacks.

How do you prevent being intimidated by delays in achieving your goals? How do you press through the pain and mental exhaustion? How do you get back up and fight?

Everybody is different. Just as each of us has a preferred learning style, we also deal with conflict differently. You have to tap into what works for you. Where do you start?

Determine Your Level of Frustration

My level of frustration depends on the situation and how much time I have to recuperate. For example, if I have some people under my leadership and a bad situation arises, I don’t have the luxury of running off to the “bat cave.” I have to stay and fight with the rest of the ranks, especially when I am the leader.

As a result, I have to imagine mental wins that reflect past victories. I visualize myself coming out of a bad situation, so I can be the cheerleader for those who follow me. They have to believe what I believe.

Take Time to Reflect and Rest

If I have a short period (i.e. 24 hours), I withdraw into a cocoon and meditate. During this period, I strategize by recalling the situation and re-evaluating the steps I took. I don’t spend much time on regrets, but I look at what’s happened as an opportunity to learn from my mistake.

You can do the same. Leave the trauma in the past, but take the lesson from it into the future to prevent the same scenario from recurring.

Also, devote eight of those 24 hours to sleep. Rest is something we neglect, but rest rejuvenates both the body and the mind.

Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson and His Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development

Sometimes, I attempt to psychoanalyze myself. In doing so, I think of one of my favorite psychoanalysts, Erik Erikson, and his eight stages of psychosocial development.

Simply Psychology writer Saul McLeod says that Erikson “proposed a psychoanalytic theory of psychosocial development comprising eight stages from infancy to adulthood. During each stage, the individual experiences a psychosocial crisis that could have a positive or negative outcome on personality development.

According to Erikson, the ego develops as it successfully resolves crises that are distinctly social. These crises involve establishing a sense of trust in others, developing a sense of identity in society, and helping the next generation prepare for the future.”

What’s occurring during these two stages and what is the conflict?

For example, as children grow, they increasingly like to explore and do things on their own. At Erickson’s Stage 3, children can learn new concepts in school and they are expected to practice them in life. They know that they can accomplish these tasks on their own, but if they fail to do so and end up asking for assistance from others, they may feel a sense of guilt.

At Erikson’s psychosocial Stage 4, children mature and their level of self-awareness increases. They understand logical reasoning, scientific facts and other matters that are typically taught in school.

Children also become more competitive during this Erikson stage of development. They want to do things that other children the same age can do. When they make an effort to perform a task and succeed, they develop self-confidence. However, when they fail, they tend to feel inferior.

Ongoing Opportunities to Overcome Setbacks

Although there are age groups associated with Erikson’s model, I believe we all sometimes revert to one or several of those stages. We seek to resolve new conflicts that are similar to what children face growing up.

When I experience significant setbacks, I visit my favorite places and spend some time reflecting on the dreams of the “little girl” in me growing up. I look inside myself and build my self-confidence by never giving up or looking back. Each new day is an adventure and an opportunity to do better.

Today, my goal is to not let that “little girl” down. She has come a long way and the journey is not complete.

Think about where you are at now and how you feel about your progress. Are things working out as planned or have things not turned out as you expected?

Also, consider your next step. Remember: setbacks are nothing more than an opportunity to make comebacks.

Start a management degree at American Public University.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.

Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.

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