HOW DO YOU REACT TO UNEXPECTED SETBACKS?

And How To Stop Them Knocking You Off Course

Today is moving day. I’m relocating from London, where I’ve lived for the past 32 years, to the Sussex south coast. Now let’s be clear. I’m not writing this article as the removal team pack up around me! I wrote it a few days ago and scheduled it in advance, ready to publish today. This article is about how to respond to unexpected setbacks after all.

move. lots of cardboard boxes in an empty new apartment. For the blog How Do You React To Unexpected Setbacks?

If you’ve ever bought and sold a property in the UK, you’ll know it’s not the most straightforward process. All the logistics happen once you’ve had your offer accepted, found your dream home and instructed solicitors to act for you. This means there is plenty of opportunity for the unexpected to happen, and things to go wrong. Last week was a case in point.

All parties in our chain wanted to complete and move on 24th March. Everybody else had been ready for 3 or 4 weeks, or so I’d been told. It was my part of the chain that was holding things up whilst I chased up answers (by this I mean hassled ) to the few outstanding queries. Exchange, the part of the process where your sale becomes legally binding, was scheduled to happen last Monday. But it didn’t – because it turned out one party in the chain wasn’t ready at all. This was bad enough, but to make matters worse, it took three days to get answers about what had delayed exchange, and the timeline for getting this resolved.

This meant that for 8 days, I didn’t know whether I was moving on 24th March or not. Which was bad enough. But I’d also planned to take the following week off work to get my new home organised and explore the local area. And I’d also scheduled a number of business meetings accordingly. Let’s just say my stress levels sky rocketed at that point. But I knew there was no point going off the deep end in response to this unexpected setback.

So What Can You Do In The Face Of Unexpected Setbacks?

We’ve all experienced unexpected disappointments and setbacks. The prospect who decided they didn’t want to buy our services after all. The major customer who threatens to go elsewhere unless we make concessions we can’t afford. The star employee who suddenly quits. The supplier who lets us down badly. The big bill that arrives just when we thought we’d got our cash flow under control. The PR crisis that’s caught the attention of the press.

But it’s the way we choose to react that’s important. We can allow our emotions to get the better of us, and go on Facebook to share the drama. We can throw a hissy fit and potentially back ourselves into a corner. Or we can let off steam privately, brush off the setback and refocus our energy – and the energy of those around us – on our priorities.

In business there are so many things that can disrupt what we’ve set out to achieve and knock us off course. From the irrelevant opinions of others to office dramas to the success of our competitors. But we can’t allow these things to absorb our valuable time, sap our energy and mess up our priorities. To counteract these potential disruptions, we need to create a protective shield to deflect unwanted events, conserve energy and enable us to stay level headed and in control.

Take Inspiration From The Masters

It’s at these moments that I think of the example of athletes like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both masters at staying calm under pressure, no matter what’s going on around them. I remind myself of my priorities, my goals, my values and the importance of my time and energy resources. This helps me to put unexpected setbacks into perspective. On a scale of 1 to 10, just how important is this setback in the scheme of things? Will it matter in one month? In three months? In twelve months? If so, is there anything constructive I can do to change the situation? Or is it a question of waiting it out? If you follow tennis as I do, you might have watched matches where one of the opponents has just had to ‘hang in’ and wait patiently for a window of opportunity.

This is why I find it helps to place visual reminders of my goals in places where I can easily refer to them. A vision board for example. This helps to stop me from getting side-tracked, and keeps me focused on my overall purpose, focus and goals. A strong circle of advisors will also give you support at key moments. Somebody you can call to vent. A friend who’ll make you laugh. Someone, like my mentor when I was a CEO, who reminded me to ‘rise above it’ at times of stress.

Our energy and emotions are contagious. They rub off on everybody we interact with. So be sure to maintain your own protective barrier so that those around you can maintain theirs too.

Join The Conversation

Question: How do you react to unexpected setbacks? Which strategies do you find most effective for maintaining your own protective barrier?

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I’m Denyse Whillier, a London based business coach and consultant. I guide entrepreneurs from across the globe to achieve profitable, scaleable growth and create businesses that are Built To Succeed™. Built To Succeed™ is my proven success system, developed during my 8 years in the trenches as a CEO, 25 years’ experience at senior leadership and managerial level and training at Cranfield School of Management, the UK’s leading business school. It’s this background that sets me apart and helps my clients to get BIG results.

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