Dealing with Setbacks
Setbacks have been top of mind lately, as I’m currently experiencing a setback in my recovery from shoulder surgery. Each of us face challenges and roadblocks, professionally and personally, and so much of how we come out of it depends on how we choose to respond. I must admit, I don’t always handle setbacks well, but I have tried to learn from my mistakes. Through experience, I have identified some effective ways to manage the disappointment and adversity that comes with a setback. My most recent difficulty has given me the space to reflect back on those strategies and consider how I might apply them to my current situation. Of course, keep in mind that following the suggestions outlined below is easier said than done, so give yourself a break if you find yourself struggling with a setback. That is in fact the very definition of the word.
- Acknowledge the reality of your situation. This can be difficult, and it can feel like giving up. It is giving up, but not in the way you might think. It’s about giving up on a perception of the situation that is no longer feasible and accepting the actual options available to you. When my doctor told me another surgery was required to clean out the infection that had developed, my first reaction was denial and defensiveness. I met his analysis with “no way”, “what are the other options” and “I can’t have another surgery.” It wasn’t until I accepted the fact that the infection wasn’t going away on its own that we could have a productive discussion about next steps and solutions. I had to surrender my belief in a different reality in order to begin to shift my current situation.
- Put things in perspective. Once I was able to take a step back, I moved from seeing this as a worst-case scenario to feeling gratitude that there was a path forward. Yes, it was concerning, but also very treatable. It would delay my recovery, but I’d still recover. It would be painful, but I’ve experienced worse. It would be a major inconvenience, but I’ve managed inconveniences before. I’d still be able to spend time with my family, work, and enjoy many of my favorite things (like good BBQ in the backyard)!
- Take it one step at a time. I will be the first to admit that I didn’t follow my own advice as quickly as I could have. As the infusion specialist explained the steps required to self-administer intravenous antibiotics, I found myself completely overwhelmed. Upon reflection, I realize that my reaction was a direct result of my failure to give myself the space to acknowledge the reality of my situation and put things in perspective. In times of stress, we often move quickly and jump into action without taking the time to come to terms with the situation. In these moments, action is unfocused, frenetic, and even desperate. Next time you find yourself faced with a setback, take a moment to breathe, reflect, and plan. You may find that it’s less daunting than you originally thought.
If you want to dig deeper on this topic, check out Get Ready To Fail, the HBR article I wrote a few years back about managing failure. This is in no way intended to suggest all challenges can be overcome using these strategies. If you are dealing with a major loss or obstacle, get support from friends, family, or a professional. Throughout my life, there have been situations during which I’ve needed all three.
Health care providers in the U.S. have had to make major changes since the start of the pandemic. I found this article to be an interesting read as it outlines seven lessons that one health organization has gleaned so far.
Question to Ponder:
How successful are your remote meetings? Take some time consider how they are working.
Here are some tips to help with the flow of meeting remotely:
- Ask yourself if you have the right people on for the topic at hand.
- Silent participation of many, for the sake of inclusion, isn’t always valuable.
- Email is perfectly reasonable as a mechanism for updates, while meeting time should help generate ideas, solve problems, and refine the understanding of issues.
- Take some time to think about who attends, what the agenda should be, and who should lead each section.
What have you found that works for your team?