When it comes to life, we all fail at some point, but we don’t all have a great comeback.

So how is it that some fail and fall in place while others appear to seemingly get back up and rise to the occasion – finding ultimate success?

The answer is simple…

Sort of. you see the difference lies in two areas, the first involves their mindset and the second surrounds the actions they take as soon as they experience a setback. It’s one part “how” they do it, plus one part “what” they believe which has them moving forward versus standing still. How you respond to your setback will either be the catalyst forward or the cement that hardens you in place.

Thomas Edison for example, notably one of the greatest success and failure stories throughout history endured thousands of setbacks and he can teach us all a great lesson when it comes to shifting our mindset as we seek out success in our life.

Since setbacks are inevitable throughout life, the key is to shift your mindset and stop defining your setbacks as failures but rather as part of the journey to greatness and understanding that when one method doesn’t work, you are simply one step closer to finding one that does.

When you can achieve this mindset shift, you will begin to experience your setbacks as simply small steps bringing you closer to your goal. The key is to identify when this happens and then, of course, take some course of action – which brings us away from the “what you believe” aspect and lets us focus on “how” to move forward.

  • Disclaimer: There is no one simple solution, quick fix or exact formula that works for every person, every time in every situation. In fact, you will have to truly allow yourself to experience failure to understand how to move forward. Below is a high-level outline of what’s worked for me.

How To Move Forward: The Post Mortem

The key is to first separate your emotions from facts.

Before you can move forward, you must take a look backward. I call this a Post Mortem. It’s designed to have you look closely at the totality of the situation through a variety of lenses. Businesses are known to running these types of meetings, so why not conduct your own? Understanding the full scope of your setback is critical. And learning how you got here and how it could have been avoided is the only way to ensure you don’t have a repeat performance. Basically, “why” are you here versus where you hoped to be.

The obstacle for many is that they begin looking for answers to soon leaving them with more excuses than facts they can work from on how to move forward. Here are a few ways you can begin:

  • Journaling your thoughts 

is an excellent and productive way to filter through what’s in your heart so you can get back to your head and find a way forward. It will help you gain perspective and better understand your current situation. The process of writing down your emotions allows you to reflect in a deeper more personal way. The goal is to “get out” the anger, sadness, frustration or anything else that may be there so you can begin to feel more at peace. There is no time frame on how long you should write or how long this can take – everyone’s emotional cycle is different. Be with yourself and focus on you first. Ask yourself, “what is the emotion you are experiencing at this moment? Are you happy, sad, relived? What’s your body telling you?

  • Measuring your goals 

can be done in a variety of ways – both quantitatively and qualitatively. Measuring based on feelings is a slippery slope – it’s like saying it’s going to rain outside because your head hurtsIt could be true but it’s not based on facts or any concrete – just a feeling. Some questions to ask yourself: What actually happened vs. the story you have about it?” We all know the acronym SMART goals, so ask yourself:Did you have a SMART goal to begin with? If so, what aspect of your goal did you fall short? Can you identify when things started to go off track, and identify what initiated the setback?

  • Take accountability 

for your part in how you got here. Being accountable and taking responsibility is both a sign of maturity and EQ. When you can own your level of involvement in how you arrived at your setback, you are showing others and yourself you are responsible for your role in the situation. It also shows you are open to looking inward versus playing the blame game. Some questions to ask yourself: Based on the desired goal, what actions did I take, or not take that led to this outcome? What’s one thing I could have done differently that would have led to a different outcome?

  • Get some distance

but don’t go too far away, make sure you come back. Perspective is a powerful tool when applied in a concise and deliberate way. Take a macro view on the situation and explore what skills you either demonstrated well and what knowledge you learned from the experience. Some questions to ask yourself: What skills did I acquire from this or what new skills have I identified I need to learn moving forward? What unique talent did I discover about myself? What relationships did I grow or weaken through this journey? Has this happened to me before in some other area of my life and if so, what did I do about it then?

  • Recommit to what’s next

to ensure you have a plan in place and the right people to support you in your efforts. We’ve discussed the need to improving your knowledge and skills, now it’s time to discuss the people and your plan to move forward. Let’s start with the people piece first. Some questions to ask yourself: Did you have the right people by your side before and if so, how might you use them differently? What new people should you include and what existing people should go? Now let’s look at the plan. Some questions to ask yourself: Is your new plan forward anchored in a SMART goal? Are you simply duplicating your existing goal or making actual changes? What measures can you take around time management (of both yourself and others) to ensure your success? Have you buffered into your plan the time allotted to learn any new skills (or hire those who have them)? Lastly, are you ready to announce to the world your new plan?

  • Stop playing the victim

and shut down the pity party. Misery loves company until of course the company leaves and you’re left with just your misery. Get reinforcements and surround yourself with positive people who won’t RSVP to your party. The people you hang out with will affect your mood, your outlook and ultimately your actions. Seek support, perspective and tough love. Overcoming adversity doesn’t have to be tough when you have the right cast of characters helping you move forward. Some questions to ask yourself: Are the people around you accepting of your flaws and imperfections? Will these people challenge your intentions and actions? Do the people around you compliment your strengths and share your vision?

  • Own it

and be proud of where you are, how far you’ve come and what you will declare moving forward. Every success story begins with a journey in failure. And they all have one commonality, which is the person celebrated their losses in service of their victories. Make your setback part of your storyline and embrace the unknown, unpredictable and uncertainty of life. Some questions to ask yourself: Could you openly share your current setback with someone? If so, what’s one takeaway you could speak to as a place of learning? How might you teach others about your setback as a means to share your experience?

Final thoughts:

Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you respond to it. The problem is that so many people let their setbacks become permanent, giving into their emotions versus honoring their goals and commitments. The bigger your vision, the more obstacles you will undoubtedly face. Learning how to overcome this will be what separates you from those who make changes versus those who make excuses. Remember the next time you hear a “no” – it simply means next opportunity.

If you need help overcoming your own setbacks:

The floor is yours: What’s one motivating question to ask yourself when you experience a setback?

With Leadership,

Joshua Miller

Joshua Miller is a creative leader and impactful executive coach.

His career spans both the advertising world and the world of leadership. In advertising, he was the creative lead, responsible for the campaign strategy for Fortune 100 brands. Today, he is an innovator. He’s supporting the executive development and change management for many of the same companies.

Joshua studied at Syracuse University, NYU and Stanford. He combines that background with his deep knowledge of organizational behavior, performance and change management. He focuses on the analysis, design, development, delivery, and evaluation of scalable and global talent development solutions programs.

Joshua is a Master Certified Coach. He trained with the International Coaching Federation and CTI (The Coaches Training Institute).