setbacksHave you noticed that there are periods in your life when everything seems to be going great and there are times when nothing really works out? We always seem to be in downward or upward spirals.
This is a self-fulfilled prophecy. When things are going great for you your self-confidence increases, which increases your chances of the upward spiral to continue its course. But when nothing is working out, we get demoralized and this decreases our chances of turning things around.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. We tend to think that when our brain tells us a story, we need to listen because the story must be true. But this isn’t the case at all. Our brains play a lot of tricks on us. When we lose an important client our brain will start telling us that we’re not good at what we do and we’re going to keep losing clients and finally go broke. When we don’t make a good first impression on a date we start thinking that maybe we’re not good enough for the other person.
But all these are just stories. The brain wanders around all the time and just because a negative thought comes up, it doesn’t mean it’s true or even worth paying attention to.

How to Turn Things Around When You’re in a Downward Spiral

So, what do you do when you’re feeling defeated?

Understand How Your Brain Works

Negative thoughts are just that: thoughts. We all have them, but they’re not real. We tend to think that we can look at reality and then reach conclusions based on it, but it works the exact opposite way: first we reach conclusions and then we look for facts to prove our theories. We do this all the time without even knowing it. And we always find the evidence we’re looking for because we see what we want to see.
For example, a year ago I met a guy and I immediately disliked him. I found a lot of reasons why I didn’t like him: the way he talked, the way he dressed and the way he carried himself around. But then I got to know him better and he’s now one of my best friends. I know he’s not perfect but all I can see know is how funny, loyal and supportive he is. He didn’t change; what happened was that when I was looking for confirmation that he was a dork I found it, and when I was looking for confirmation that he was great, I found it too.
When you find yourself surrounded by evidence that you’re a failure, understand that you’re seeing it because that’s what you’re looking for. You don’t need to feel bad about it; it’s just your brain playing tricks on you. Once you understand how your brain works, make a list of reasons that make you successful. If you feel like a failure because you blew an important project, think about another important project you excelled at. You’ll see that when you’re looking for the good stuff it’s just as easy to find it as the bad stuff.

Believe You Deserve It

The main reason people don’t accomplish their goals is self-boycot. There’s something inside them that makes them feel they don’t deserve what they want. I did this for a really long time. I felt it was unfair for me to have too much when there are kids dying of hunger. I felt that because my dad lent me some money to start my first business I didn’t deserve to take all the credit for my success. I was raised Catholic so guilt was always very ingrained in me.
There’s only one way out of this sense of not deserving more: you have to quit doing it cold-turkey. Trying to figure out the root of this feeling is a waste of time, because it doesn’t really matter what made you feel this way. What’s important is that you quit doing it. Feeling guilty is a bad habit, just like drinking too much or being too aggressive. You have to stop it.
What I realized is that my purpose in life is to help other people as much as I can. And the better I do, the more I can help them. If I’m happy I can be a better friend to my friends and a better husband to my wife. If I do well financially I can reduce the number of people who die of hunger. We live in a society that tells us that taking care of ourselves first is selfish, but if we don’t fill ourselves we have nothing to give to others.

Surround Yourself with the Right People

My friend Anthony once told me “you become the average of the people you hang out with.” He was absolutely right. My business started doing a lot better when I started surrounding myself with successful entrepreneurs. I’m in much better shape now that I work out with guys who train hard.Negative people drag others down with them because they don’t want you to take off and leave them. Positive, successful people will pull you up because they want you to join them. I don’t hate naysayers people; they just don’t know any better, but I don’t want to waste my life with them.

Use Challenges as Fuel

There’s an endless list of reasons why you shouldn’t succeed: you’re too young, you’re too old, you don’t have any money, you didn’t receive enough education or maybe until now you have lived a life you’re not proud of.Whatever your excuse is, find someone who was in the same situation you are and made something happen for herself or himself. If you want to start a business but think you’re too young, use Mark Zuckerberg as inspiration. If you think you’re too old, Colonel Sanders started KFC when he was 65. My wife is my greatest source of inspirations: she went from not being able to read at 14 to being an extremely successful business owner at the age of 21 and being one of the top students at her college.
When life presents you with a challenge, use it as fuel to improve. When I broke my leg playing rugby in 2011 the doctor told me I would never be able to play rugby again. Now, 18 months later, I’m not only playing, but I’ve been elected captain of my team and I’ve been selected MVP several games this season. I’m convinced that none of this would have happened if I hadn’t hit rock bottom. In our company we made dozens of improvements that allowed us to sign really big accounts and it all started when we had a few dry months last year and we had to work harder than ever to get out of the situation we were in.
Never underestimate the power of a good setback; it might be exactly what you need to spring yourself back to the top.

Be Nice to Yourself

When we realize it’s time to change, sometimes we tend to be overly critical with ourselves. This is a bad idea. There’s no manual for life; we all have to figure it out as we go. We all make mistakes; you’re not alone. And more importantly, because you can’t change the past it doesn’t make sense to continue wasting time regretting it. You’re not your past; you can be whoever you want to be. Focus on changing starting NOW.
Do you want to be a nicer person? Start being nice others. If you want to lose weight, don’t get depressed about how overweight you are now; instead, start eating better and exercise more. Beating yourself up over decisions you made in the past is a complete waste of time because the past can’t be changed. Think of it as the path you have to go through to learn what you know now.
When you’re working on improving an aspect of your life, keep these two things in mind: 1) Set realistic milestones and celebrate them. Small wins give you the confidence you need to achieve bigger goals. 2) Don’t be discouraged if you have some setbacks. We all do. What matters is what you do after you have a setback: will you feel like a failure and quit or will you get back on your feet quickly and keep going?