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Bounce back in 24 hours


Performance Matters

Andrew May is a performance coach who has spent the past 15 years working with elite sportspeople.

View more entries from Performance Matters

We all experience setbacks, but coping strategies can help you get back on your feet.

We all experience setbacks, but coping strategies can help you get back on your feet.

With Australia performing below expectations on the medal count at the London Olympics, I couldn't help but think of the construct of resilience and how people bounce back from adversity.

The fact is, bad things happen to all of us. The real key here is what you do and how you respond after the event. So what can you do in the next 24 hours to bounce back from adversity and increase the likelihood for success in the future?

Maybe you had a bad performance review, missed a deadline or went over budget on a project. You might have even have lost the Olympic gold medal by less than one hundredth of a second.

Whatever the cause of your disappointment, here are some proven ways to get your head back in the game.

1.  Blow off some steam

We all experience setbacks (a much more performance-friendly word for failure). And if you haven't, well you're stuck in your comfort zone and not trying hard enough. The best way to release some of the pent up emotions and stress generated by setbacks is to do something else.

Sabine Sonnentag, the world's leader in psychological recovery calls this 'psychological disconnection'. I sometimes refer to this as simply  'changing channels'. Listen to Metallica, watch an action movie or read a book. Do something you enjoy and don't hold back. If you feel like screaming at the top of your lungs – do it! Maybe even strap on a pair of boxing gloves and belt the living daylights out of... a boxing bag.

2.  Get out the magnifying glass

It's invaluable to play the role of Inspector Clouseau and analyse what you could have changed or what would you do differently next time around to increase the likelihood of success. Were you over-confident, did you underestimate the intensity of the situation, did you have incorrect research on your competitors/clients? Undertaking a critical analysis of where you can improve, and being honest with yourself, is essential to learn from your mistakes. It can also help to ask people in your team, mentors, coaches, etc to provide you with their critical feedback.

(I can't help but think that James Magnussen is doing a lot of point 2 right now and given his time again, would approach the London Olympics in a much less confident/even what some people have called 'arrogant' way).

3.  Sweat it out

You heard it when you were five years old playing junior rugby or netball and it still holds true today. After a big knock or a setback in life, take the time to sweat it out. And I mean literally. Engaging in physical activity is a proven way to re-wire your brain and help you find solutions, release pent up emotions and find the energy to move on. You can go for a long walk on the beach, rig yourself up to an indoor rock climb, or amp it up with a 20 minute fast run on the beach. Exercising releases endorphins, which will help you feel better and let go of the negative emotions. It will also help you to sleep better, stay calm and remain optimistic.

4.  Just breathe

It sounds so simple because it is. If you're feeling overwhelmed, upset, anxious or frustrated, just take a deep breath. Focus all of your energy on taking slow, deep breaths through expanding your diaphragm (when you are doing proper diaphragmatic breathing your belly button pushes out when you breathe in, and comes in when you exhale). Pay attention to the way the air moves through your body, or how you inhale. Aim for ten deep breaths and then re-evaluate once you have finished. See, there you go. Don't you feel better already?

5. Focus on what you can control

Okay, so you've just had a bad day. Maybe even a bad week. Hopefully not a bad year. But it doesn't have to be a bad life. Use the first four steps to let go of your emotional attachment to the negative event and situation. Now, it's time to bring it back to the reality. What can you control? Will worrying or tormenting yourself fix anything? Or are you better focusing on the things that you can influence or change to ensure a better result next time around?

6. Time to harden up

Okay, so the poop has hit the metaphorical fan. You feel like days, weeks (even years in some cases) have just spiralled down the drain. As I use to tell the athletes and sporting teams I was coaching and what I now tell my corporate cycling squad every Friday morning at 5.30 am in the middle of winter – sometimes we just need a big cup of harden the f*^# up. Sure, things didn't go the way you liked. But you know what? They rarely do.

Now is the time to pick yourself up, dust off the mud, and work out your plan of attack. By all means spend some time reviewing and reflecting upon what didn't work, but as my 4-year-old daughter told me last week 'you get what you get and you don't get upset'. Put it into perspective, learn from it, and move on to the next challenge in life. And if that doesn't work, go and spend some time with a 4-year old or their kindergarten teacher.

How have you bounced back from a setback?

15 comments so far

  • Great article. Most of us know this but it's great to reinforce especially when the chips are down. If all else fails watch any John Candy movie, it always helps.

    Sharkus Maximus
    Date and time
    August 13, 2012, 1:05PM
    • I haven't had that many setbacks recently. Maybe that proves I'm in my comfort zone, as it says above. No-one's acting like I am, although my employer doesn't have a huge risk appetite.

      Date and time
      August 13, 2012, 1:58PM
      • Very wise 4 year old :o)

        Date and time
        August 13, 2012, 3:23PM
        • I find time is always a great healer - at the moment of the setback it's best not to think too hard and just let the emotion settle. It's much examining how and why things happened when the mind is calmer.

          Date and time
          August 13, 2012, 5:20PM
          • To take the advice from the mathematician Polya, when you face a problem that you can't solve, find a problem that you can solve and solve it.

            This doesn't mean ignore problems you can't solve, instead work on what you can do now and work up to the harder problem. Can't deal with your boss, deal with the client, one colleague is being mean, be nice to the nice colleague, can't meet customer A's expectations, focus on making customer B happy.

            Date and time
            August 13, 2012, 5:26PM
            • yep in project managament its sometimes called "chunking".

              sometimes the best way to handle a big project is to break it down into little chunks. then start with a few of the easy to achieve chunks and work your way up. in the end you will find that something that seemed insurmountable when looked at as a whole is really only a whole big bunch of achievable chunks.

              Date and time
              August 14, 2012, 1:30PM
          • Yep ... sound off somehow ... talk it out with a supportive person ... take a break ... be kind to yourself ... then get back on life.

            Date and time
            August 13, 2012, 5:57PM
            • Apt timing: am going thru hell at work. Am told "blow off some steam & have a run" Heck - I do that every day anyway!
              Am hopping into points 2 & 5 to get out of this rut. Doesnt help when you suspect that you're also being "helped along" out of an org you've been part of......

              the city
              Date and time
              August 14, 2012, 8:03AM
              • I am in the same position, after 4 years with the government suddenly I am being pushed into quitting. There is no doubt I am being targeted as everything I do is being picked to pieces - after almost two months of this I have had enough. I am about to hand in my notice this week, meanwhile I have been releasing tension and frustration through writing erotica. Ironically my books seem really popular... (one story has been viewed 16,000 times in a month). There is a lot of work to do still on marketing and so on, but I am determined to make it work. I never want to work for a boss again. Ever!

                Date and time
                August 14, 2012, 9:34AM
            • Dust off the mud??

              Date and time
              August 14, 2012, 8:38AM

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