“Perseverance is everything. Everybody has setbacks in life, keep on going!”
The Boston Red Sox won the very first World Series and four more by 1918. However, they did not win again for 86 years. In 2004, the Red Sox played the New York Yankees, their longtime rival. The Sox began the series by losing the first three games. No team in Major League Baseball history has ever comeback from a 3-0 deficit to be the champions.
Nevertheless, the Boston Red Sox won the next four games in a row to win the series, their first win of the World Series in 86 years.
Who doesn’t love a good comeback story?
My dear friend is a burn survivor and of all the comeback stories I’ve ever heard, his is probably the most inspiring.
Erin was refinishing the floors in his old Victorina house when the fumes from the lacquer thinner caught fire. The house was engulfed in flames within seconds with Erin and his then fiancé trapped inside.
Erin managed to escape through a bathroom window, rolling in the snow to extinguish the flames.
He had burns over 90% of his body and was placed into a medically induced coma for over 2 months.
After Erin woke, his life began spiraling downward. Erin’s fiancé who escaped the fire had moved on, with his then best friend, and depression was taking a toll.
Drugs and alcohol came into Erin’s life and after a burglary Erin was arrested and sentenced to 4 years in prison. Erin was still recovering from his burn accident and was wearing pressure garments on his body.
Erin was not able to tie his shoes because his hands were burned in the fire. Due to not being able to tie his shoes, he constantly missed recreational time, the guards gave him no special considerations.
I remember the day Erin was telling me this story and then how he recalled the day he got his shoes tied, how it was a turning point for him.
Erin and his now wife (also a burn survivor with an inspiring story) have a wonderful life together and speak to others about their comeback stories. (Read Erin’s story here)
I remember thinking of Erin when I was going through my divorce, a HUGE unexpected change and setback in my life. I was always inspired by his story and I used it as inspiration on the many, many days I felt hopeless and defeated.
Turn a Setback into a comeback
Everyone faces setbacks or unexpected challenges in their lives at some point. We can choose to allow the setback to become a permanent fixture in our lives that keep us in the place of sadness, failure, defeat…OR we can ask ourselves, “What did this teach me”, and move forward. But how do you do it?
6 steps to keep moving forward when you are faced with a setback
- Acknowledge it: Allow yourself to feel sad, worried, disappointed, upset, etc., but for a limited time; this is a dangerous place to stay for too long. Each setback you face is different (some more difficult or impactful for others) but being authentic with your emotions rather than pushing them under the rug allows you to eventually move into the forward focused mindset.
- Eliminate Blame: You can’t keep blaming other people or the world in general. Yes, it’s true that someone else might be the reason you were presented with your setback, but blaming them doesn’t change the fact it happened.
- Talk to someone: I’m not suggesting you need to seek counseling every time life presents you with a setback. However, talking can help. It can be your friend, a family member or a co-worker you respect and value. Keeping things bottled up inside isn’t healthy for any of us.
- Write down what you are thankful for: We can’t change the past. What has happened has happened. Taking time to not only focus on this obstacle in your life, but write down the things in your life that you are grateful for. Try writing them out so you can SEE them.
- Give yourself time: A broken body or a broken heart is not going to heal overnight. Process what you have been presented with and know it will take time to work through. The stages of grief don’t have a timeline. You will bounce around between the stages and some will take longer than others. You might even feel a setback during these stages if you have moved from Denial to Anger and then back to Remember these stages don’t have to be (and usually aren’t) linear. Take your time.
- Keep moving forward: Expect setbacks in life. If we expect them, we can learn to be adaptable and can move forward that much quicker the next time life throws us a bump in the road. Obviously, we don’t usually know when we are going to be presented with a setback, but if you are prepared to adjust to the unexpected, it can help you move forward a little quicker. Here is an activity that can help:
- What is a setback that might happen in your life or has happened?
- What are 3 feelings you might experience or are experiencing during that setback?
- What are 3 ways you have productively dealt with these feelings in the past?
- What are 3 ways you can adapt to accommodate this setback?
So, the question lies, “Are setbacks really setbacks? Perhaps they are just growth and learning opportunities?”
It sounds nice doesn’t it “I just had a huge growth opportunity today” vs., “Well crap, that was a huge setback!”
I know, not easy to say when you are dealing with a life altering setback, but it’s a nice thought.
Setbacks can be as minor as a headache when you have a busy day or as impactful as your house catching fire, a job loss or a divorce.
The Boston Red Sox, Erin Mounsey and ____ (your name here) were faced with setbacks in life but they had amazing comebacks and came out the other side champions!
Remember, You Got This!