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Think of a time when you were working towards a goal. In the beginning, you are fired up, super motivated to make progress. But then – bam! Something gets in your way. Maybe you are training for a race, and you sprain your ankle. Or you are working on eating healthier, but then a glass of wine on Friday leads to a bottle, leads to a pizza delivery, and before you know it, you’ve spent the whole weekend indulging in all things delicious. Setbacks happen. A little backslide is normal when you are working towards a goal. Those setbacks do not equal failure!
What is most important is how you handle the situation. Do you give up completely? Do you use the setback as an excuse to fall back to your old habits and forget the goals you have? OR. Do you start again? Do you keep going? Do you take a breath, shake it off, and keep moving forward? Today we are digging into why setbacks lead to failure and asking some questions to get you back on track!
Money setbacks happen
You have made a goal to get out of debt. You commit not to use your credit cards, organize your debt-snowball, and start carving every single penny out of your budget to put onto your debt. But then…
- a pipe bursts
- the clutch on the car goes out
- an unexpected bill arrives
- you decide to use the extra money this month to go out for an extravagant dinner that was NOT in the budget
Any number of things can happen to derail your progress – believe me, I know because I have experienced them all. Some months feel like it is one thing after another.
It can be easy to lose sight of the end goal and give up on your dream completely, so I want you to tell yourself: setbacks are normal. Life wouldn’t be worth living if it didn’t come with challenges and problems to face, because it’s in these tough situations that we get stronger. It is these setbacks where we learn the biggest lessons. So I’ll say it again:
Setbacks are normal. They happen to everyone.
The key is how we handle them! These setbacks do not have to lead to failure – they can merely be a pothole in the road.
Here are four ways you might be handling setbacks that are keeping you from achieving your goals, and some questions to help you overcome the roadblocks.
It can be so easy when you’ve had a bit of a backslide to tell yourself, “I failed. I give up!” We give up because change and failure are uncomfortable. So, returning to your old ways gives a sense of security – this is what is familiar, and it is what feels good. Change is uncomfortable, though. So embrace the discomfort and keep going.
Before you give up, ask yourself:
What have I accomplished so far that I am proud of?
Reflecting on what you have done well is a great way to reframe your thinking and get you back on track. Instead of giving up, think of how far you have already come.
Have you saved your emergency fund? Paid off your first debt? Cut up your credit cards? Be proud of the steps you have taken towards your goal, no matter how small!
Blaming anyone else
Passing the setback off as someone else’s fault. Your spouse, the government, the utility company, the universe. You believe you can’t get out of debt because of someone else. That feels better than owning the issue yourself. THIS is how simple setbacks lead to failure, to us giving up on our destination because of a bump in the road. The blame game won’t fix the problem.
What can I do, right now, to get back on track?
Unexpected events come up every single day, for everyone. This is a normal part of living. You pay for something you didn’t budget for or use your credit card even though you promised yourself you wouldn’t, or get in a fender-bender that costs you a few thousand dollars in repairs that you were not expecting.
Instead of blaming anyone and everyone, accept the setback and move forward. Pay the bill, cut up the credit card, whatever you have to do. Take a breath, reset, and start again tomorrow.
Believing you can’t
You have a setback, so you tell yourself you’ve failed, and you can’t reach your goal. This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you believe something (like you can’t get out of debt), your actions align with that belief. And then because your actions support your notion that you can’t get out of debt, you use that as proof that you were right. You say, “See! I knew I couldn’t get out of debt!” and allow that narrative to follow you through your life, without ever considering what would happen if you believed you COULD do it.
What have I already overcome in my life that I believed I couldn’t do?
Remember being a small child and learning how to ride a bike? You believed you couldn’t do it, and then one day – after falling off time and again and fighting through your fears – you did it! What else has happened that you didn’t think you could learn or accomplish?
Related: Excuses to Let Go Of
In July of 2008, my dad and I strapped a ridiculous amount of gear to our backs and set off to conquer the West Coast Trail, a 75km trail on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It’s frequently ranked as one of the best hikes in the world, and is also easily the most physically difficult thing I have ever done. Including childbirth!
The terrain is rugged, featuring cliffs, cable cars, and ladders (and ladders, oh and also? More ladders). I wanted to give up SO many times along the journey and I said “I can’t do this” about a billion times. But look at this (unfiltered) picture of the sunset? Nothing is comparable to the memories we made!
There were setbacks along the way, and I could have given in to the “I can’t” belief and given up. But I didn’t. I had to tell myself, every single day, “You can do this.” Over and over. And just like everything else in life that has challenged me, it made me stronger and was so very worth every struggle!
The point is that even though I wanted to let every stumble and setback lead to failure, I put one foot in front of the other (literally) and didn’t quit.
Being too scared
Failure doesn’t feel good. So when a setback comes along, it can be scary to start over, with the fear of failing again looming over our heads. Stop letting fear control your life. The finish line is so worth it, even if you do it scared.
Many years ago, I had a pretty rough snowboarding accident. I got a bit over-confident; my board and body went one way, my knee went the other. It was terrifying, and it could have been a lot worse than it was. I walked (crutched) away with a second-degree tear to my MCL in my knee. It did not require surgery, just a week or so on crutches and some rest. But our season on the slopes came to a sudden end. The following year, I was all healed up. But WOW – I was TERRIFIED to try again. What if I got hurt. What if I got hurt worse than last time. I avoided heading to the mountains and missed a whole season of fun with my friends, all because I was scared.
Obviously, when we are talking about money, it is a different type of fear. But the effect is the same. If you are too scared of failure to try again, you’ll miss out on all the joys that debt-free living has to offer.
(And believe me when I say, when I finally found the courage to strap my board back on, I was SO glad I had!)
What will life be like if you don’t keep going?
Take a minute and envision your one year, five years, ten years down the road, if you give up on this goal. Are you still drowning in debt? Scrambling to make payments? Fighting with your partner about money every single day? Or maybe even divorced because the money stress and fighting finally became too much to carry together?
Imagine this like when Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Christmas future – this is what could be if you give up.
You started this goal for a reason. You have a vision for a life where you don’t have to carry the burden of financial stress, a life where you aren’t wasting money on interest payments or worrying about how you’ll pay your bills. Don’t let that vision fade to black. Put your head down, get to work, and make your dream a reality!
I know that setbacks can feel discouraging. You may be flying along, making great progress, and then bam! Something unexpected comes up, and you feel like you’ve had the wind knocked out of your sails. But the setbacks you face don’t have to lead to failure!
You are stronger than any of the excuses we talked about today. And your dreams are worth more than any setback you will face. How you deal with setbacks will determine how successful you are.
What setbacks have you faced in your financial journey? Join our Facebook community now to share your setbacks and how you’ve overcome them!
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