5 ways to overcome setbacks and believe in yourself again

woman thinking
Refocusing your priorities after a major setback can help you believe in yourself again.
  • Believing in yourself is how you can overcome even the harshest of setbacks.
  • Sometimes failures are your fault and sometimes they're not, but it's important to recognize the difference and learn from your past mistakes. 
  • Align your short- and long-term goals, and find a mentor to help you achieve them. Once you reach those goals, celebrate them as wins — big and small. 
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In 1997, I started my company, Success Clinic, in my college dorm room with $800 and a book on HTML.

In 2007, after spending over $250,000 on "gurus" (and listening to a lot of bad advice), I ended up $40,000 in credit card debt working out of my parents' basement.

I felt like a failure. I was angry and resentful. But worst of all, I had lost faith in myself and didn't know how I'd ever believe in myself again. Today, I run a consulting and training business from my home and work with coaching clients around the world.

After interviewing more than 200 of the world's most successful people, I realized that one of the biggest differences between them (what I call the 2 percenters) and the average person isn't money or IQ or luck or education. It's simply the belief that you can reach your goals and achieve your dreams. 

So how do you believe in yourself again after a major setback?

1. Recognize when failure is your fault — and when it's not

Because of the current global pandemic, millions of people, through no fault of their own, have lost their livelihood as well as their dignity and sense of self-worth. It's clear that few people saw this coming.

Yet because of the coronavirus pandemic, entrepreneurs face a great challenge to survive and keep their businesses growing.

You may be feeling not only afraid for your health and safety, but also worried about your business and your relationships.

Yet the reality is that the world's most successful people have failed more times than most people even try.

The harsh truth is that sometimes failure is your fault, and sometimes it's not. Learn to recognize the difference and move forward.

2. Learn from your mistakes — and don't repeat them

When you make a mistake — especially one that costs you time and/or money — the hardest part often isn't the mistake itself. It's letting go of the regret of making the mistake.

For example, when I paid all those "gurus" all that money — only to discover too late that they can't teach their way out of a paper bag — I beat myself up for a long time. It takes courage to forgive ourselves, as well as to forgive other people who hurt us or did us wrong.

You can "what if" yourself forever, but in most cases, it won't change the situation. Remember that everyone — from Mark Cuban to Bill Gates to Warren Buffet to Elon Musk — makes mistakes. The best thing we can do is learn from them.

List what you learned from your past experiences. For example, in my case, I realized that I had paid all those "gurus" based on their shiny social media profiles showing off their sports cars and private jets. The irony is, I don't really care about those things anyway. I just let my envy get in the way of rational decision making.

Understanding what led to the mistake caused me to realize that in the future, when evaluating a coach or mentor, the most important element is not their flashy stuff, but whether they've actually helped other people reach their goals. That's why in my own practice, I realized that it's better to brag about my clients' successes rather than my own.

3. Focus on your new, real goal

Knowing what you really want helps you understand what you're trying to live up to, what you need to work on, and what you need to consistently do.

When you reach a deeper understanding of yourself, your goals, your dreams, and your real values, you are able to respect yourself more and make decisions that are beneficial for your growth.

The fact is, sometimes the very reason we fail is because we're going after something we don't really want (as with my example). Make sure you're going after the goals you really want because, as Stephen Covey said, "Don't climb the ladder of success only to realize it's leaning against the wrong wall."

4. Celebrate small wins

One habit that's detrimental to your self-worth is believing that "you'll be happy when." In other words, when you hit X goal, then you can let yourself feel happy. This is a mental trap, because as soon as you hit X goal, you immediately tell yourself you have to hit Y goal.

Stop waiting to feel good. Reward yourself when you complete so-called "small" tasks or goals. For example, after I complete writing this article, I will give myself the reward of a nice, relaxing nap.

Celebrating small wins empowers us to move forward, because it allows us to feel that our actions are recognized — if not by others, then by ourselves, which is more important anyway.

5. Find the right mentor for you

A mentor is someone who believes in you when you may not believe in yourself. The right mentor will help you come up with a plan of action, find the right tools to do the job and give you the support you need to reach your goals.

Find someone with the knowledge and experience in the area or areas you're looking to make changes in. Some people argue that you should have only one coach or mentor. That may be true in some cases. However, even the world's elite athletes have multiple coaches for different specialties — for example, they might have a strength coach, a nutrition coach and a flexibility coach. Finding the right mentor can help you redirect your perspective and guide you to believe in yourself again.

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