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Distract and Forget—Tools to Use to Recover from Setbacks

By On Jul 12 2012, 9:57 pm

Here’s your opportunity to share my simple, but workable secret for emotionally recovering from life’s setbacks—like rejection letters. Maybe these two tools will work for you as they do for me.

• The first is to distract yourself from your problem. Think about something other than the setback—something fun.

• The second is to forget about the incident as quickly as possible—wipe it out of your mind and move on.

For instance, it’s hard when you’ve spent months perfecting a manuscript and it’s deemed not ready for prime time. You’re torn and insecurity sets in. “Maybe I’ll never be good enough” you think. You might even drop into despair and depression.

This grieving process is necessary. Give yourself time to grieve, but only a little. Don’t wallow. Move on.

But how? Here’s how.

As quickly as possible, bring your focus back to your goal. Visualize experiencing the future success you desire for the manuscript and the happiness its fulfillment will bring to you.

Pull yourself out of the mire of despair by distraction. Do something you know will make you feel a little better: listen to music, read a good book, meet with a friend who makes you happy, pet your dog, play tennis, take a walk…

Whatever you do, don’t beat up on yourself. If you catch yourself blaming yourself for the setback, stop it. Realize that each of our actions are a learning process. Decide what can be learned and know that no fault rebounds to you. You are a student, learning how to maneuver through new territory. Instead of blaming yourself, have fun. Watch a funny movie. Eat something you enjoy. Setbacks are part of the learning process and not subject to blame.

Keep your end goal in the back of your mind while enjoying these “happiness” projects you incorporated to distract yourself. At first you start slowly. Don’t expect overnight improvement. Instead, enjoy these small moments of happiness and look forward to longer stretches of pleasure. The key is to thoroughly enjoy each moment so the setback doesn’t intrude in your thoughts.

If you catch yourself starting to feel bad again, immediately distract yourself with something fun. You might as well. You won’t be productive while wallowing. Why not use that “misery time’ to “waste time” having a chuckle.

Once you’ve gotten yourself on the road to happiness and you start to smile easily throughout the day, begin the “forgetting” process.

I’ve learned through the years that there’s little percentage in unhappiness and much that’s worthwhile in a positive attitude. I take steps each minute of each day to move away from the negative by indulging myself in those activities that make me happy. I wholeheartedly recommend it to you.

For example, after a rejection letter, I focus again on the joy of writing and seeing the novel in the hands of a reader. I visualize going into the community to meet with readers and give talks and sign books. I bring my mind away from unhappiness and focus only on those things which bring on a smile.

Eventually, these happy events take over and the setback that initially dragged down my emotions becomes a distant memory—if that. Sometimes, I’m so good at draining out the negative through the art of distraction that I forget about the setback and have to look up the details in the file. After a quick read, I re-file it and keep it away from my immediate attention. Why slip back? Once you receive emotional wellbeing, you’re definitely at the stage to move on.

I’ve used these two techniques for more years than I care to remember. They are a positive response to life’s setbacks and they get me back into productive writing quickly. They have created in me a core of optimism that carries me through daily disappointments.

You, too, can learn to distract yourself and then teach yourself to gradually forget until the setback is merely a minor memory in the back of your mind. Remember, distract yourself with happy thoughts and actions until this happiness pushes the negative memory right out of your mind. When the setback no longer dominates for your attention, your energies will be released for productive tasks—and the process has beneficial effects on your health as well.

Here’s wishing you success using these tools: distract and forget.


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