We All Encounter Setbacks In Life, Yet We Mustn’t Allow Ourselves To Ever Be Defeated

We Mustn’t Give Up Hope Of A Better Future

“But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”—Ernest Hemingway

If we allow setbacks to overcome us, it will penetrate our psyche and erode our character. Setbacks are unavoidable in this journey called life and none of us are immune to them. If you are reading this now, you no doubt live in the Western world and have access to technology, which makes you more privileged than millions of others living in poverty. I mention this because life in the Western world comes with its civil liberties and its problems.

Defeat is sewn into the fabric of our existence and accompanies us our entire life, whether it be our: health, relationships, career or financial. Every one of us has a story where defeat gained a foothold in our minds. Some people recoil from the pain while others rise to the challenge and overcome the barriers to defeat. Can you identify with this narrative? Have there been moments when you experienced setbacks and thought you wouldn’t bounce back, yet you did? We are all tested in some form or another, some more than others and whilst it may not be fair, this doesn’t mean life is unjust. Those who overcome defeat learn that to judge life based on fairness does not award them more power than the next person.

Unfortunate things happen to good people and one need only turn on the news to see the state of the world at present. Challenges are everywhere, but we mustn’t give up hope of a better future. We mustn’t believe we are powerless in the face of our defeats. Sometimes it may feel life imposes itself upon us in a cruel and unjust way. We want to retreat until we feel ready to emerge again. This isn’t necessarily a bad plan, though we mustn’t stay down, otherwise our self-esteem will be compromised.

Make The Best Of Our Hardships

“You don’t have to fear defeat if you believe it may reveal powers that you didn’t know you possessed.”—Napoleon Hill

When speaking in front of audiences or coaching clients, I often ask people to think back to a time in their life that shaped their character. Similarly, I invite you to reflect on moments when you experienced hardship and overcame it? What lessons did you learn and what skills did you develop? People often say they didn’t think they had the inner strength and resiliency to overcome their setbacks. This reaffirms why we must face our challenges with an open mind and a soft heart. We can’t allow life to extinguish our inner light because once it goes out, it will be difficult to rekindle the promise of hope, faith and enthusiasm.

I can’t explain why unpleasant things happen, nor would I want the burden of trying to figure it out. I’ve come to the realisation it is a waste of time and energy trying to understand why unfortunate things happen. If I look for the meaning in life’s events, I become mired in the problem and move further away from a solution. However, if I accept it and shake the fragments of defeat off my shoulder, I realise life isn’t a tale about being knocked down, but it’s about how many times we rise that makes the difference. Similarly, it’s of little use to justify life being fair or unfair since this is not helpful and relieves us of our power to respond affirmatively. If we can summon our inner power and make the best of our hardships, we can sail into smoother waters knowing there will be times when the sea of life will be rough, yet when the storm passes, it will be smooth sailing once again. It is what the acclaimed Brazilian author of The Alchemist Paulo Coelho refers to in a tweet when he said: “The more violent the storm, the quicker it passes.”

I’d like you to get a sense that setbacks are part of the human condition, though we mustn’t be defeated by them. If we do, we risk losing ourselves to what the late holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl reiterated in his teachings when he said; our ability to choose our attitude. Frankl’s passage from Man’s Search for Meaning underscores that our attitude is the last remaining hope we have when everything is taken away from us. This was the case when he lost his family in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” You are not the product of your defeats because they are teaching points from which to cultivate your greatest strength. For in overcoming our impediments, we discover the depth of our character and an abiding spirit of resiliency that follows us throughout life ever more.

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