More and more I am coming to realise that happiness can be measured by the bounceback factor. It’s not about being immune to bumps or sadness. But it’s about learning how to let those setbacks make less of an impression.
As tempting as it is to imagine personal growth as a straightforward road ahead, there are always going to be peaks and valleys, two steps forward and then one slip back.
One of the biggest dangers of setbacks is that we think “Oh well now everything is fucked”. We lose heart and it feels like all our good work has been for nothing. I ruined my diet by eating that burger. I was feeling so confident until that confrontation with x. I was relaxed but now my day is going to be full of anger and stress because of blah.
It’s at those moments that our will is tested. We can let ourselves feel bad, wallow in the setback, or we can start walking forward again. Usually the result is somewhere in the middle. But it’s about learning to reduce the turnaround time.
Our initial reaction is the hardest thing to change. You can’t always do everything right. You will make mistakes. And there will be times when other people will hurt us, or life will make us sad, or angry. I’m not saying we can never change our initial reactions, but it takes some work.
But what we can work on in the meantime is the rebound. The times someone says something that upsets us, we can make the choice to let it go *earlier* than we normally would, instead of carrying it around with us all day. Often our anger is only half about what has happened; the rest of it is about how we have reacted. “I am so pissed off I have lost half my day to being angry at this”, “I am so upset that this has ruined my good mood”.
There will always be times when something is worth hanging on to. There are important things worth fighting for. But a lot of the time we are just grinding our own selves down. The hard part is knowing when we’ve gotten to that point, learning to let it go, and move on.
Similarly, the times where inertia grabs hold of us, tries to drag us under, it is easy to feel frustrated at ourselves, for not being stronger, not having it all together. The trap is to hang on to that feeling, the comforting mire of self-immolation.
It takes awareness, of our own patterns of thinking, to recognise these things early, to turn them around, to decrease the downtime and to be faster on the rebound. And it is a good feeling when you manage to, occasionally, succeed at it.