Maybe you’ve been looking over your shoulder for a while, expecting her to surface at any moment. Or maybe she’ll completely blindside you. But there is one thing you can be sure of: The old you will show up again, and it will feel like the most discouraging setback ever. The only questions are, “When?” And, more importantly, “How long are you going to let her stay?”
This Week’s Setback Story
It happened to me this week, as a matter of fact. I was working on a project that was really important to me, and I purchased a tool I thought was going to make that project magically easy for me. When that tool didn’t work the way I expected it to, and when the customer service experience wasn’t quite what I expected either, the old me saw a chance to make her move. Before I even knew what was happening – without even thinking about it – I said a couple of rude things over email about how the experience didn’t meet my expectations. Without sharing any of the lame details, let’s just say I made the conversation way more unpleasant than it needed to be.
I behaved exactly like the old me. The very person I’d been trying so hard not to be anymore.
I’ll just go ahead and let you know that my setback story has a decent ending: I eventually figured out how to make that (awesome) tool work for me, how to complete the project in a way I was really happy with, and how to accept the fact that my apology wasn’t welcome and I’d officially blown the chance to make friends with someone I would probably really like in real life. I had to just let it go.
But during the few days I was working through it, the experience really got under my skin.
My Worst Fears Realized
At first I couldn’t figure out why it was so upsetting. “Was it because I just wanted to be right?” I asked my best friend. “Was it because this person is someone I would probably really like, otherwise, and I feel stupid about it?” I asked my husband.
And finally I realized that the experience upset me so much because it was merely my worst fears coming true: That I wasn’t really making any progress in my life. That I was the Same Old Me. The same old me who was snippy and snarky and sarcastic sometimes. The same old me who would rather be right than kind. The same old me who doesn’t realize that when she chooses to see the universe as unfriendly, she gets to live in an unfriendly universe. The same old me who simply forgets to be kind (because everyone, not just her, is fighting a hard battle). And for a little while there, it felt like an insurmountable setback.
Whatever your struggle is, make no mistake: You will have setbacks where your old mindset powers on and starts piloting the ship again.
Taking Back the Wheel
Here’s the good news: You already know what to do. You just have to dust off your pride and take the wheel again. Whether this involves an imaginary kung-fu battle in your own mind or not is up to you. Whether it takes a few hours, days, or weeks to get back on course is up to you, too.
You are not perfect and will probably mess up again. Repeatedly. All that cliché stuff you already know. Your family and friends already know that you are not perfect and they still love you. (Your dog has never stopped believing that you are perfect. Your dog doesn’t even know what a setback is. But I digress.)
Why a Setback Can Be a Really Good Sign
Another thought about experiencing a setback like this: Sometimes, the more upsetting the mess up, the clearer it is a sign that your old self (the ego/subconscious mind) is losing its hold and is trying even harder to hold you back, blow you off course, or keep you from changing, because that’s its weird way of trying to keep you out of danger. So as counterintuitive as it may seem, you can be encouraged by these brief cameo appearances of the same old you. Just keep on moving through it.
As Lisa Nichols puts it, if you can find the lesson in an experience, that experience was not a failure. You can, in effect, “fail foward” if you choose to. I was really encouraged by this clip – hope you will be too.