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3 lenses to view setbacks (and turn them around)

Glasses and sunset

If you’re like most people, you’ll find that each year offers some significant accomplishments and recognition. But you will probably encounter a few bumps in the road, too.

The most important thing is how you respond to these disappointments. When you feel disappointed, it can be hard to see past it. But there are ways to approach setbacks more productively.

Identify a personal or professional obstacle or disappointment you are dealing with now or recently experienced. Then try these three new lenses to help you start viewing the same situation differently:

The reverse lens. Look back at what might have led up to the disappointing situation and do some role reversal. Let’s say you were turned down for an assignment you really wanted. Think about why the decision-maker thought turning you down made sense. What would you have thought or done if you were in his or her shoes, based on the information at hand? This could provide insight that could come in handy the next time you seek an opportunity. What or whom did you overlook as you sought the assignment? Maybe you’ll realize that key people weren’t aware of your value and that you need to more consistently and tastefully promote yourself.

The wide lens. How does this setback fit into the bigger picture of your career? Maybe you had your heart set on this assignment because it would have given you exposure to senior leaders and the chance to demonstrate your readiness for a promotion. It’s unlikely, though, this assignment is the only way to do that. Brainstorm your “Plan B” so that you have additional options for accomplishing the same goals.

The long lens. At first, setbacks can feel insurmountable. You might think, “That’s it. I lost this opportunity, so my career has stalled.” But as you examine this from a longer-term perspective, you’ll probably realize that this setback won’t hold you back as much as you originally feared. When you begin to look at it this way, you’ll start to find ways to keep things on track.

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Neena Newberry is president of Newberry Executive Solutions. A former Deloitte executive, she is an executive coach who helps women "think and play big."

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.