“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Boxer Mike Tyson
What do you do when life doesn’t go your way?
Everyone talks a big game about overcoming challenges and doing their best in life.
But when it comes down to it, most of us react to disappointment and setbacks by complaining, getting angry or doubling down on the same old mistakes.
Here’s what to do instead.
1) Be honest
Be honest about what’s happening.
Far too many people pretend everything is fine when it’s not.
The worst thing is that they even lie to themselves:
Yes, I lost the job, but it’s fine…
Yes, the one I love just left me but it’s really not that bad…
Whatever is happening in your life that’s making you upset, frustrated or angry, be honest about it!
If you want to know the best things to do when life doesn’t go your way, it always has to be honest about what is not going your way in life.
2) Be realistic
Next up is that you must be realistic.
Specifically, you must assess what is currently in your control.
If you are suffering from a serious illness, have had a breakup, have been laid off from work or various other setbacks, there may be large parts of it which are out of your control.
Ruthlessly refuse to go down the daydreaming path of “what if.”
“What if” ruins lives, and it can ruin yours.
Your life and its setbacks right now are what they are, and only a certain amount is in your control.
You must be realistic about what is in your control right now:
- It may not be your emotions…
- It may not be your thoughts…
- It may not be the situation itself…
But what you can control is your decisions and actions. You can control what you do and what you focus on next.
3) Free your mind
There are many things to do when life doesn’t go your way, but it’s crucial to build a solid foundation before taking action.
Many of us look for answers in spirituality and self-development and end up finding ideas and paths that speak to us.
But I’ll tell you the truth about spirituality and the New Age movement:
Even well-meaning gurus and experts can get it wrong and lead you backwards in your journey.
The result is that you end up going backwards and fighting against yourself without realizing it.
You can also do a lot of harm to those around you and your relationships.
In this mindblowing video, the renowned shaman Rudá Iandé explains how we can overcome false spirituality and find a real connection to our personal power and potential.
Far too many people are stuck in forms of spirituality that appear to be “positive” but are actually highly counterproductive.
But there is an alternative!
4) Be resilient
Some life setbacks are personal, some are not.
For example, if you’re laid off due to a decline in the sector you work in along with a group of various colleagues, it’s not personal. You’re the victim of an impersonal economic trend.
By contrast, if you’re dumped by your girlfriend due to her accusing you of being boring or over-possessive, it is personal. You’re the victim of a personal judgment by someone you care for.
Life setbacks which are personal in nature are harder to come back from, at least emotionally.
The key is to liberate your perceptions from unhealthy, disempowering patterns, especially the idea that our worth is defined by others. It’s not!
There is a way to accept the pain and disappointment while still knowing that the personal setback you’ve suffered does not lower your worth or potential in any way.
5) Stand up for yourself
When life doesn’t go your way, it sometimes feel like nobody is on your side.
Usually you will find that there are people on your side: family, friends, coworkers and more who you even never expected.
But admittedly in some rare cases you really may be on your own.
Think of it as an opportunity to stand up for yourself and be your own person, fully owning your experience.
Many people never have to do this in life, which is both a blessing and a curse.
It’s a blessing, because feeling truly alone is deeply painful and difficult.
But it’s a curse because only those who’ve really had to define themselves from the ground up – sometimes without support – become truly interesting, engaged and successful people who can change the world.
6) Go in new directions
When one door is closed, look for an open window (or a fire escape or sledgehammer to smash down the wall).
Many times the end of one chapter can be the beginning of a new one.
The key is to approach your situation from new perspectives and try new decisions.
Instead of wondering what could have or would have been, focus on what can be, now, with your direct action.
Long-term goals are crucial and excellent, but never expect them to make up for a lack of action or focus in the present.
Also, don’t forget that sometimes there are days when doing nothing at all is the most powerful thing you can do to resist social conditioning.
7) Leave your expectations at the door
Expectations are the cousin of “what if.”
“What if” something had been different? What if you hadn’t lost the house to foreclosure? What if your business partner had been more trustworthy? What if you were better looking.
Expectations are a way of daydreaming about the future and thinking that because you really feel you deserve and will receive a certain experience or achievement, it will come.
And if it does it won’t be because you expected it, it will be because you worked and planned towards it.
Expectations sap our ability to focus and work in the present moment and be clear about what’s holding us back in life and what we can do about it.
Leave your expectations at the door, and focus on your goals instead (something I’ll explore in more detail later on).
8) Don’t expect perfection
Perfection is often the enemy of the good.
The reason is that when you expect perfection and aim for it, anything less can be a disappointment.
But if you hit the reset button every time real life doesn’t turn out like your dreams, your entire existence will just be a series of false starts.
Don’t expect perfection, even if you work for it.
Consider the bumps along the road and the imperfections (in your partner, your job, your appearance and everything else) to be part of their appeal.
Various religions even include imperfection in religious paintings and glasswork, for example, as a denotation that only the divine and Creator itself is truly perfect.
This can be a good way to think of it if you are religious, and even if not, understanding that life is, in a sense, inherent imperfection, can be highly refreshing and revitalizing.
9) Learn from your losses
You can react to losing in life in two main ways: anger and sadness or education.
Losses can make you lose your nerve or make you learn.
The choice is mainly up to you.
If you’ve had a failed relationship or had a business prospect go belly up, this is a chance to look dispassionately at what went wrong and avoid it next time.
You may feel strong emotions or angry and sad thoughts.
But focus on taking apart what’s gone wrong like you were a crime scene investigator: just the facts, ma’am.
10) Boost your skillset
When life doesn’t go your way, it’s a good time to learn new skills.
If you find that the opportunities you want are never showing up, start proactively working towards new horizons.
Learn new languages, new skills, new strategies.
Boosting your skillset isn’t just about the potential it can bring you, but also about the inherent value in improving yourself.
Do it because you can, and because the confidence you get from learning new things is something that will stay with you for life.
11) Make new friends
When life doesn’t go your way socially or you’re feeling discouraged about your circle of friends, it’s an ideal time to make new friends.
Loneliness and social alienation often are worst in the middle of a large crowd where you feel alone.
Focus on seeking out friendships and connections which are high value and unique, rather than numerous and shallow.
This is one of the best things to do when life doesn’t go your way.
12) Focus on your problems
Many of the spiritual seminars which sound best are actually the most harmful.
One the worst ways our mind stays trapped is by trying not to focus on problems.
It makes no sense, and it actually causes many problems to become worse.
Instead, you need to free your mind from stereotypical spirituality and focus on your problem instead.
It’s only by doing this that you can begin to come up with solutions and really be honest about what you’re dealing with and what it means.
Ignoring your problems or trying to adopt a childish “positive vibes only” philosophy is an exercise in futility that will just leave you further behind and stuck in a dualistic mindset.
13) Separate your dreams from somebody else’s
Are your dreams your own or are they somebody else’s?
Family, friends, society, pop culture and many other influences tell us what we should want and aspire to.
Do you truly want to focus your life on becoming a trial lawyer or a pharmaceutical designer?
Do you really want to marry and have kids? Do you really want to stay childless and live a life of bachelorhood or be an eternal bachelorette?
Many of these things aren’t fully in our control, but if they were, what really moves you?
Make sure it’s what moves you, not what you’ve been told should move you.
14) Seek a spiritual center
Earlier, I wrote about the dangers of following gurus who don’t know what they’re talking about and falling into the trap of toxic New Age spirituality.
The truth is that there is so much junk out there: feel-good-fluff mixed with gaslighting garbage.
It’s either lessons about being more “positive” and “raising vibrations” or guilting you for feeling down and trying to gaslight you about your challenges in life.
I think we’ve all had enough of that!
I know that at least for me, what I want in life is to fulfill my potential, be part of a tribe and lead a meaningful life.
And there’s a great way to do that.
15) Use failure as fuel
Failure can be the final word, or it can be fuel.
Every one of us fails at some time, but losing the battle does not mean you have lost the war.
Use failure as fuel, and learn from your losses as I advised above.
My best workouts and many of my best ideas have emerged out of frustration and anger.
You don’t have to feel “good” all the time. The idea of that is ridiculous. Life is imperfect and flawed, and it always will be.
Use the failure as fuel. Allow it to surge through your engine until you’re accelerating to speeds and milestones you never imagined before.
Expectations vs. goals
The process of freeing your mind is about far more than just “going with the flow” or other such cliches.
It’s about understanding the difference between expectations and goals.