It’s easy to feel beat down by setbacks as we work towards a goal. Let’s unpack what is really happening when you hit a speedbump.
Accidentally binging when you’re on a diet does not make you a failure.
Missing a day you were supposed to read or go to the gym does not make you a failure.
Trying your hardest but falling short over and over again does not make you a failure.
What you are trying to do is not easy, and all of these speedbumps are necessary to get where you want to go. Let that sink in. These are not catastrophes, they are steps along the path to where you want to go.
Think about a hard class you passed or some other accomplishment you had. Was every assignment and quiz and test a complete effortless success? Or was it a mix of good tests, bad quizzes, and hard projects?
The path to any hard goal will have ups and downs. That’s a guarantee. What I need you to understand is that both the ups and downs in that class were a part of the passing grade you eventually got. Read that again. The setbacks along the way did not predestine failure, they were just a part of the journey.
There’s an invisible progress bar over your head which represents how close you are to your goal, be it a new job or promotion or a goal weight. And every time one of these setbacks or successes happens it moves from 60% to 63% or from 91% to 95% or maybe even 98% to 99%.
We don’t know where the progress bar is right now, but it only moves forward.
I do know that you will accomplish your goal, but we have to remember that these speed bumps on the way to our goal are necessary and they don’t mean you’re not going to get where you want to go. With each day you put in your time and execute your plan for your goal, that bar is moving forward.
It never stops unless you give up. And sometimes we feel a lot of darkness or uncertainty. When was your last dark moment? When something went south and you were devastated and wanted to quit? It didn’t beat you, you didn’t give up. Guess what? That progress bar moved forward when you got back up off your feet and dusted yourself off.
We can’t see the progress bar right now, but all the ups and the downs on this journey make it fill up a tiny bit more. I believe in you and I know you’re not going to quit and I’m so proud of you for all your hard work. I think that progress bar is more full than you realize, and I’m so proud of you for keeping the fight on after every setback and challenge and difficulty.
When you try something new for your goal even though it is scary? The bar fills up a little.
When one attempt goes south so you learn from it and try again? The bar fills up a little.
When you decide to work towards your goal even on days you really want to skip? The bar fills up a little.
Those were just steps along the path and we didn’t see the bar fill up a little bit more after each one, but I guarantee you it did. Imagine it filling up above your head next time something like that happens, it’ll help you realize you’re still moving forward and that one setback does not define you as a failure. Your persistence and drive to keep trying defines you as a success. I’m serious. Visualize the bar filling. It will help you stomach the hard days when you accept that getting back on your feet is a win in itself, and help you keep moving forward.
You know all the success stories who accomplished crazy goals and achievements? They had many of the same setbacks and the same progress bar filled up halfway you have now. They got rejections too. But they just kept chugging until it was filled up to 100%. Don’t feel like they are different or better than you.
You’re not a success or “worthy” only when you accomplish your goal. Right now, at this second, you are an incredibly powerful machine that just hasn’t been plugged into the right system yet. You’re already worthy, you already have value and you were never a failure. Someday you’re going to look back at this time and be so proud of how hard you fought and how you never gave up.
This isn’t easy, but by simply sticking with it you’re doing so much right. You can’t see it right now, but that progress bar is steadily marching forward, and it’ll be at 100% before you know it.
Further reading: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday is a fantastic book that really helped me to reframe setbacks and help me learn from them in all areas of life. Highly recommend it if this post resonated with you. It takes a little effort to learn but once I saw that I could learn from everything that happened to me, it was way easier to stay positive because even when life gave me a curveball I could get something out of it.