I once went to a workshop organised by the brilliant FEU about this very thing. The image that sticks in my mind is our trainer explaining how we are all born with resilience, reminding us that, as toddlers, we learned to walk despite falling over and hurting ourselves hundreds of times. I found it useful then, and still do now, to think of that and to remember the stubbornness, bravery, and determination of toddlers, and try to harness it. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and have decided we could all do with a different approach when things don’t go the way we would like them to.
Talk about your set backs
I mean it. We don’t do this enough – as brilliant writer Hannah Khalil explains in more detail here. If we all talked about our set backs as much as we do our successes, things would feel more achievable even in the difficult times. I have never hidden the fact that I got the idea to start my theatre company during a bleak period in my life, when I was unemployed, had just split up with someone, and was living in a tiny, mouldy room. This actually seems to inspire people.
Do not take a set back personally
I recently felt very let down as three people I was really looking forward to working with became unavailable within the same week. It was a stressful time trying to recruit last minute replacements alongside working full time and trying to have weekends away from work! But we did it, and I look forward to working with those three people when they are available in the future, and working with the new people. Their reasons for leaving the project ranged from holiday dates, to family issues, to career betterment, i.e. nothing to take personally at all.
Sometimes, things do not align at the time we want them to, but then better things come along and are made all the more worthwhile because of the amount of effort put in over a length of time. We applied three times over an entire year for Arts Council Funding for our first full touring production and it was so disappointing having to cancel on theatres that wanted and believed in our show. But it was third time lucky for us and, in that extra time, the play has been published by Methuen Drama!
Reach out mid set back, if you can
I had three jobs cancelled earlier this year and went from two films and a commercial that would have paid my way for the next six months, to zilch. I shamelessly put on Facebook that I was looking for ways to pay the rent and, lo and behold, I now have two part time flexible jobs from kind actor friends who put in a good word at their offices. It goes both ways, so if you see someone having a set back, try to help them through the frustrating times that you also recognise and remember.
Do not catastrophise. Energise
The sky will not fall in just because of who won the election, or the referendum, or that part you really wanted to film in Spain for Channel 4. Take stock and work out what you can do to help things go your way next time to get the right leader/result/job. It will happen. Work out why this set back happened and look at what you can do to change things. What can you do to make this situation more bearable, even if it’s not at all what you wanted? In the long term, perhaps this set back will help things work out for the better. We can see people mobilising all over the world since the events of last year after all.
The Serenity Prayer
Religious or not, the Serenity Prayer can also be extremely helpful to consider during a set back:
Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.