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3 Ways To Bounce Back When Things Don’t Work Out

September 27, 2020

3 Ways To Bounce Back When Things Don’t Work Out

If I asked you to reflect back over the past months and write down what hasn’t worked out for you, what would your list look like? I’m guessing it may be long, sprinkled with a little discomfort and perhaps an unwillingness to share publicly. Let me give you a feel for what I mean by exposing my vulnerability, and listing just a few of my unexpected turns of late:

  • After three months of solitude writing my first book Hacking Happiness, I finished, ready to celebrate a life milestone, and then COVID hit abruptly and the world went into lockdown. It’s fair to say it was not how I envisaged that moment playing out.
  • Overnight my days of racing across the globe speaking to large audiences and teaching leaders in corporations dried up, as did my income. That was a surprise!
  • My home became a classroom for the first time and I a teacher to my 10 year old son. Having never been much of a fan of home-schooling, this certainly wasn’t part of my plan.
  • My Mum's best friend of 55 years, who had been a beautiful part of my life and my family, was found murdered… not sure it gets more unexpected than that.
  • And that kicker, four days later I was rushed to emergency with a resurgence of my old friend Crohn’s disease only to discover (after a CT Scan) that at the age of almost 45 I was unexpectedly pregnant. I’d only weeks earlier split from my boyfriend of 4½ years. Being privy to what at my age is considered a geriatric pregnancy most certainly was not on my manifestation list.

I should be a wreck, right? Let’s collectively acknowledge and own the fact that 2020 has been a tough year, not just for me but for nearly everyone it seems. Things not going according to plan is the new reality and with the unpredictability of COVID Life it is often a daily occurrence. Building our resilience amidst an unprecedented, complex and uncertain environment is a non-negotiable. Our mental health and our ability to thrive depends on it.

Whether we bounce back better than before will be determined by our willingness to self-disrupt and to do it often. But how? Allow me to share that it’s through the proactive building of your Intentional Adaptability Quotient (IAQ®) that you unlock potential that you don’t even realise you have. Your IAQ® is the measure of how skilled you are at making intentional change in a complex and uncertain environment that is evolving at speed (and damn don’t we find ourselves in one of those now).

If we proactively hone the IAQ® skills of Focus, Courage and Curiosity it enables us to bring intention and meaning to the forefront of how we adapt to not only the unexpected, but to life overall. Win, Win I say. But where do you even begin to dial up your IAQ® and your ability to bounce back better? By exploring a couple of simple practices that you can experiment with daily.

Focus…On Your Words

Sigmund Freud once said "Words have a magical power. They can either bring the greatest happiness or the deepest despair". The reality is that the language you use will determine your ability to bounce back. The challenge is that we are innately bias towards negative words. We are hardwired to assess every situation for risk and reward, risk situations receive our attention quickly because they trigger our Amygdala and prepare our body for action (fight, flight or freeze) under the guise of a survival mechanism. Barbara Fredrickson, a founder of Positive Psychology discovered that “you need to generate a minimum of five positive thoughts for each negative one, to experience an optimal range of human functioning”. Whilst it’s harder work to be positive inside of our own heads, the more we challenge our negative internal dialogue the more able we are to find the positives at challenging times and move through adversity. Try using the Name It Reframe It Method to shift the balance of negative language toward more positive language more often. It’s as simple as observing your negative language throughout the day. When a negative word comes into your mind Name It by calling it out or writing it down e.g. "I suck at this", then Reframe It by simply stating the complete opposite to yourself e.g. "I will be great at this with practice".  This simple practice, employed consistently, can build your self-belief to the next level!

Courage …Grows Through Acts Of Micro Bravery

Resilience is born out of leaning into fear and experience tells me that the practice of Micro Bravery is one of the best ways to build it. Micro Bravery is doing small things each day that make you feel uncomfortable. It can be as simple as having a difficult conversation, signing up for an online class to learn something you know nothing about or sharing something that makes you feel a little vulnerable with someone else. Small acts of bravery practiced over time build the courage and confidence to lean into bigger acts of bravery enabling you to unlock potential and navigate adversity in ways you never imagined possible.

Curiosity…Is Born Out Of Self Observation

After working in the area of adaptability for the past 25 years I have come to realise that awareness is the first step to change and observation is our greatest lever for turning our awareness on. That being said, in order to bounce back better when things go pear-shaped, creating the space to reflect on how life plays out daily via journaling is a game-changer. Why? Because, intentionally writing down your thoughts, feelings and behaviours enables you to connect the dots between how they interact.  We become observers of our brain’s behaviour and build a relationship with our mind.  We open our eyes to what triggers us, cultivating an ability to tweak our behaviour in a way that is in alignment with the life we want to live. So, experiment with 15 minutes of daily journaling, set the alarm on your phone and just sit alone with your thoughts a pen and a piece of paper. See what comes up and out. No filters just observation. Don’t stop your practice if you have nothing more to write and you are only 5 minutes in. Just sit in the silence…trust me it will surprise you.


HackingHappy.co is on a mission to teach 10 million humans how to intentionally adapt by 2025 in order to future proof happiness. We are devoted to supporting you in creating the space, self-belief and the courage to realise the happiness you deserve. Want more happy in each day? Take your free Hacking Happiness Assessment here.