zen habits : breathe

Coming Back From a Setback

By Leo Babauta

I set myself a challenge recently, and I’ve been failing at it.

I decided to only eat bland food, with no variety. The month is only 2/3 over, but I’ve struggled much more than I’d anticipated.

It’s such a minor setback, but it’s made me feel a little depressed sometimes, and I’ve wanted to quit more times than I’d like to admit.

I didn’t quit, mostly because I thought that sticking with it might help someone else going through a struggle.

The Struggle with Setbacks

I’ve had bigger setbacks before: getting a divorce, losing a job, having all my possessions wiped out by a typhoon, failing to make ends meet because of crippling debt, deaths in the family, unable to quit smoking or start exercising.

Interestingly, all these setbacks felt very similar to this much smaller setback for me.

Mostly because I was burdened by several things during each setback:

So that’s some of what I go through during a setback, and I think lots of people feel similarly.

The good news: there’s hope. In every single one of my setbacks, I’ve found a way to pull out of it. Maybe I didn’t meet the challenge I originally set out to do, but I find a way to survive, to feel better, to do something good, to learn.

The Way Out

Looking back on how I got out of my past struggles, it’s instructive in my current struggle. I’ve always gotten out, and these are some of the things that worked:

And so, in this struggle I’m having now, I embrace the reality of me and the reality all around me. But then I find the reality of someone else who is struggling, and see how I can help them.

That’s why I drank nothing but bad-tasting shakes yesterday. Not because I’m super-disciplined, but because struggling with it might teach me something that will help someone else in their struggles.

And so, if you’re struggling with a setback today, know that you’re not alone. I’m there with you, struggling, so that we can do it together. And it will pass. We’ll get through. And this getting through: it’s making us stronger. It’s worth it.



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