Welcome to the roller coaster of professional life! 3 tips for dealing with setbacks.

Anyone who wants to start a business knows that the road gets tough!

Those of you who follow me on LinkedIn probably saw my post last week alluding to just that:

The last few months have been tough – especially because of the pandemic.

That’s why I made last week my personal “Can’t hurt me week”.

It’s an approach to hard times that I borrowed from David Goggins and his book “Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds”.

Have a look – it’s really interesting!

But anyone who wants to start a business must not forget one thing:

It can also mean having a lot of fun.

Because as a start-up founder there is not only a lot to experience, but also to learn.

In short: it never gets boring.

One of my most important learnings as co-founder and managing director of zapliance for many years:

There are lows – but after every low there is always a high.

And even if this sounds like one of the many supposedly comforting pieces of advice – I have made the experience that it really is so.

No profession is protected from lows.

In this article, I would therefore like to talk about strategies that have helped me during my biggest professional lows in recent years.

This also means that this article contains tips that are not only helpful for start-up founders, but for everyone who has to overcome a lean period.

Of course, this also includes auditors – because if, for example, an auditor builds up a good relationship with a head of a department over years and with a lot of effort, but the head then quits, this can sometimes be quite a hard hit after all this work.

The result:

a drop in motivation for the profession.

And that’s exactly where I would like to start with my first piece of advice – with motivation.

Because one of the biggest challenges after a career low is to regain motivation and get going again.

But how do you motivate yourself when something has just gone bloody wrong?

My tip: Take a look at the past.

Take a look at the last 10-20 years of your life and review your greatest successes and failures.

You will notice:

there are ups and downs.

Visualise ups and downs – it helps to calm down.

A good way to visualise this natural course of events is a graph.

Create a graph where you plot all the highs and lows of the last few years in chronological order on the horizontal time axis.

Then, for the vertical y-axis, think of a feeling according to which you classify your highs and lows – this could be “perceived happiness”, “felt motivation” or even “stress”.

In a next step, draw the numbers from 0-10 in ascending order on the y-axis.

If, for example, you have chosen “felt happiness” on the emotional axis, 0 would stand for “I could scream with frustration” and 10 for “I could embrace the world with happiness”.

Then assign a value to each of the events plotted on the x-axis and mark it with a dot on the graph.

You will see:

The curve that emerges after connecting the individual dots is characterized by ups and downs.

This is a good way to keep reminding yourself that a momentary low is not a permanent state – but that at some point things will want to go up again.

When looking forward, it helps to look back.

The psychological concept of “self-efficacy experience” plays a role in this strategy.

This describes the extent of the personal conviction of being “master of one’s own luck”.

People with a high sense of self-efficacy trust in their problem-solving skills and do not attribute too much importance to coincidences or other external factors in their own lives.

A look at the curve just described helps to increase your awareness of your own problem-solving competence – because you visualize which challenges you have already successfully mastered.

The result:

your experience of self-efficacy increases.

And that also has an influence on your health!

Various studies have shown that people with a high sense of self-efficacy are less prone to certain mental illnesses.

My second tip goes in a completely different direction – it doesn’t concern dealing with yourself but is aimed at the interpersonal. Because in phases of feeling down, it is important to exchange ideas with others.

This helps in many ways:

On the one hand, the saying “a shared pain is half the pain” applies here.

Especially in crisis situations, it can be very relieving to tell another person about your own problems.

This not only relieves pressure, but also helps the person to come to terms with what has happened.

It is not unusual:

when you tell others about your own problems, you often come up with valid solutions yourself that you would not have come up with on your own while “rolling your thoughts around”.

But these solutions can of course also come from the person you are talking to, especially if he or she is familiar with your professional field.

But even listeners from outside the field are often able to give good impulses for successfully overcoming problems.

Sounds crazy, but it’s true: the problems of others can calm you down.

Another advantage of talking to others is that you often learn something about the problems of others – and this helps to bring your own issues back into relation to reality.

For example, if the person you are talking to is currently facing the same or even bigger problems, this can be quite relieving – after all, there are not only other people who also have problems, but even people who have even bigger problems. Phew.

The third strategy I have learned to appreciate in recent years is to pause after a setback.

And that’s not so easy:

because throwing yourself into the next project full throttle and full of hope is sometimes much more pleasant than asking yourself what the reasons for the setback were and what you could do better next time.

Yet it is precisely the analysis of failure that is important in order to approach new projects differently and avoid new low blows.

Avoid at all costs: From low to burn-out.

Another point in favor of pausing is your own energy.

From experience I can say:

low blows are energy-intensive.

That’s why it’s important not to continue immediately after such setbacks, but to first regain your strength.

This can be a holiday, but relieving stress in everyday life can also be relaxing. For example, decide for yourself that you will not work overtime for the next 6 weeks.

Or block out time in your weekly schedule for a new hobby.

The list goes on and on.

The most important thing is to clear your mind so that your thoughts are not on the job for a longer period of time.

Because only then does the relaxation phase set in and the body begins to regenerate and gather energy.

My conclusion:

Ups and downs are part of the job – that can’t be changed.

But how you deal with them can.

And maybe the following quote by John Lennon will help you:

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

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