THE BLOG

Rebounding: Turning Your Life Around After a Setback

04/16/2015 11:11 am ET | Updated Jun 16, 2015
Shutterstock / Robert Kneschke

Sometimes life doesn't work out according to plan. The marriage you believed was perfect ends in divorce. You are laid off from the job you thought you would have until retirement. You unexpectedly need to relocate due to a job change. By the time we get to our 40s, we all have experienced one or more of life's curveballs. The question isn't whether you'll have them, but when.

These experiences are discouraging. We feel like life has dealt us an unfair blow. We wish things could just go back to the way they were. However, setbacks can be turned into opportunities. With the right mindset, you can use your setback to create the life you've always wanted. Below are important things that you can do to come out better than ever.

1. Have a Regular Spiritual Practice. Stress can cause us to think unclearly. We see only the negative in a situation. We ascribe bad intentions to harmless comments from family and friends. We have unrealistic worries. Having a regular spiritual practice -- whether it be attending religious services, practicing meditation or yoga, or engaging in daily prayer -- can help you settle your mind. With a calm, clear outlook, you will be more relaxed and able to make better decisions as you forge ahead with your new life.

2. Break Bad Habits. This is a good time to take a hard look at the past. Ask yourself, "What have I done in the past that was successful? Is there anything I did that didn't work?" A prior unhealthy relationship or toxic work environment may have kept you stuck in bad habits. If you didn't exercise or eat properly, now is your chance to start. If you were hot-tempered or had a bad attitude, this is an opportunity to change the way you operate. Use this break from your former life to improve yourself for the future.

3. Be Careful Who You Spend Your Time With. Critics and naysayers are everywhere, and they are very happy to inflict their message of doom and gloom on you. Surround yourself with people who support you ... and be ruthless about cutting off those who try to make you feel badly about yourself or your new life. You need to spend time with fun, easy going friends and family who think the world of you and want to help you in any way that they can.

4. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise. Did I mention that you should exercise? Exercise not only helps us produce endorphins which make us feel mentally good, but exercise makes us look better. When we exercise, our clothes fit well, and we move with a spring in our step. Moreover, eating properly and exercising today will lead to a healthier tomorrow. Like putting money in a 401K, exercise is an investment that you make now toward enjoying a much happier future.

5. Be Careful How You Spend Your Money. Major life changes sometimes can bring about unexpected financial issues. Having finances that are out of control is incredibly stressful and can prevent you from building a great new life. If you've always been careful about how you spend and what you save, keep doing so. If you haven't been, now is the time to develop new habits. I love to shop. Most of us do. There's nothing wrong with that ... as long as you can pay for your expenditures up front and still put a little aside each month for a rainy day.

6. Don't Just React to Life. Pursue Goals. Life feels out of control when we spend all our time just reacting to what is going on around us. Setting and pursuing goals is the way to gain control over your life and get what you want. Ask yourself these four questions: What are the most important things that I want to have in my life? Why do I want these things? What do I need to do to achieve my goals? What small thing can I do each day to work toward my dream life? Write down your answers and read them every day. Working toward your life goals should be a priority that comes before any of the mundane tasks that beg for your time.

7. Don't Talk About Your Setbacks. Talk About Your Accomplishments. The hard truth about life is that most people aren't interested in what you've been through. They may listen to you complain for 5 or 10 minutes about the fact that your parents didn't love you enough, your spouse was a jerk or your former boss treated you poorly. But then they lose interest. Your friends, family and co-workers want to know what you're doing or working toward now. By talking about the good things that are happening in your life today, you'll feel better about yourself, and you'll be more interesting to others.

8. Make Your Home a Peaceful Place. When going through major change, your home needs to be a place where you can unwind and rest. If your house is a mess and the TV constantly is blaring, there is no way you can relax. Make sure your home is tidy, and there are times when it is completely quiet. You deserve to live in a place that provides you with serenity, and the people you live with should have the decency to respect that.

9. Don't Be A Turtle. Sometimes when life throws us a curveball, we want to hide in our shells. But it is important to get out and do things. Why? Because we need to see that there is more to life than what we are living at the moment. There are tons of interesting people to meet out there. There are so many new things to learn about and see. Don't hide at home because it feels safe. Force yourself to get out of the house and experience all that the world has to offer.

10. Change the Way You Look at Setbacks. Sailing smoothly through life is fine, but it doesn't present much opportunity for personal growth. Setbacks provide us with an opportunity to become wiser and more compassionate. Not everyone takes advantage of this opportunity. There are lots of bitter, resentful people walking this earth who cling to setbacks that occurred years, if not decades, ago. They talk about their age old divorces and job losses like they happened yesterday. Don't be one of those people. Use what you have experienced to have better relationships, create a more satisfying career and become a better "you."

Remember that setbacks often are opportunities in disguise. The marriage that failed can lead you to the spouse who is perfect for you. The job that dissolved can lead to an even better, more interesting career. A setback is not the end of the road. Moreover, it isn't the setback that defines how your life will be lived. It is how you rebound from setbacks that determines whether or not you will have an amazing life.