Dealing with setbacks: four ways to build resilience

Down days are inevitable, but learning from experience will help you bounce back stronger than ever.

No matter how diligent you are and how carefully you frame your advice, one day a client may suffer a loss. If this happens, it’s natural for you to feel self-doubt. On the up side, however, you’ll be in a strong position to learn from the experience and move into the future with greater confidence.

To prepare for the down days in your daily practice, incorporate some reflection into your regular reviews. Think about what has gone well and what could have gone better. Then be honest with yourself about what you contributed to those outcomes, and realistic about the limits of your powers.

Marcela Slepica, clinical director of AccessEAP, has four key tips for recovering morale and building resilience in your personal and professional life.

1. Accept that sometimes things go wrong

As an adviser, it’s important to accept that share-market downturns sometimes happen, and it’s not your fault.

“You need to remind yourself, ‘I don’t have control over the whole share market, and I couldn’t possibly have thought of every possible outcome’,” Slepica says.

“Check that you followed the correct processes, then look at the big picture and distinguish between what you can influence and what’s beyond your control

2. Learn from the experience

Flexible thinking is essential in helping you reframe and learn from the pain.

“It’s normal to feel sad and disappointed, but it’s not good to get stuck in those feelings,” Slepica says.

“Don’t beat yourself up. Step back from what happened and look at it objectively. You need to accept the feedback and be able to say there was some learning in it.”

3. Look after yourself

Self-care is vital in times of stress. Eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep. Don’t fall into the trap of using food or making unhealthy choices to distract and calm yourself. It’s also vital to maintain social and personal connections.

“Don’t isolate yourself,” Slepica says. “Reach out for support.”

4. Get professional help

If negative thoughts continue to circulate in your mind, you might want to consider guidance from professional resources.

“You need to deal with those recurring thoughts and images, because if you don’t they are only going to grow,” Slepica says.

Research into the science of optimism by US psychologist Martin Seligman has identified three ways our thinking becomes distorted when we are faced with adversity – we see the problem as more personal, more pervasive or more permanent than it actually is. In each case, the solution is to check whether our interpretation matches reality.

Slepica says someone who sees a setback in a personal way may feel they are solely to blame. They need to remember they are only one factor in a far larger dynamic.

Someone who sees the negativity as pervasive might become dramatic, she says.

“I would say to them, ‘So, are you saying you’ve never given anyone good financial advice and you’ve never ever helped someone grow their wealth?’ You have to get them to think about examples when it did go well.”

Others might feel the situation is permanent and can’t be turned around. “They say, ‘What’s the point? I can’t do this right. These bad things always happen’,” Slepica says. “Instead, they need to think, ‘It’s not forever, things will improve’.”