When You Have a Setback, Remember the Joy is in the Process

January 17, 2018

Categories: Struggle

It’s tough when you’re working toward a goal, and you have a setback. It can be easy to get discouraged, or even throw in the towel and quit. Recently, one of the tough things I have been dealing with is recovering from a broken tailbone. The recovery has been painful and uncomfortable. It isn’t healing as fast as I hoped it would, and I feel angry about that.

One of the frustrating things about having a broken tailbone is that I’ve been sidelined from working out. One of my most important values is health, and I enjoy going to CrossFit and working on my fitness goals. Ever since I broke my tailbone, those goals have been put on hold.

The Joy is in the Process

One thing that helps me when I’m in the midst of a setback is to remember that the joy in life is more in the process than the outcome. Take the example of fitness and getting in shape. I remember when I finally was able to do a muscle-up (a tough CrossFit move), I felt incredibly happy. But the joy was because of the process. It was a difficult move, and I had to work on it for about six months before I finally got it. There was something about putting in all the effort and seeing it finally pay off that brought me a lot of joy.

But the joy wasn’t as much in the outcome. Once I was able to do a muscle-up, being able to do a muscle-up again didn’t bring me as much joy. Now that I had the move down, the joy wasn’t as great. I needed a new goal to work on.

I feel the same way with goals at work. Getting a journal article or book published is great, but the joy is mostly in the process. Sure, it’s fun to have a book with my name on it sitting on my shelf, but the real joy comes from accomplishing something difficult and meaningful. It was a long, challenging process, but I did it! The joy was more in the process than the outcome.

Set-Back or Set-Up?

Now when I experience a setback, I try to view the set-back as a set-up for even higher levels of joy and happiness. Take my injured tailbone, for example. Sure, it sucks. I wish it didn’t happen. I’m frustrated that I’m out of shape. But the injury gives me the opportunity to work really hard and get back into shape once I’m healed. I know it’s going to be tough, but I’m ready for the challenge. In a way, it allows me to go through the process again, experiencing the joy that comes from tackling a difficult challenge.

Discussion: What about you? What difficult setback or challenge are you facing right now? Might this be an opportunity to gather all your strength and resources to overcome this challenge, and experience the joy that comes from the process?


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  1. […] This can be scary, because we don’t know what the outcome will be. We could mess up, or experience a setback. But really, what’s the worst that could happen? You could fail? You might be unhappy? If […]

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