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What Do You Do When You’re Down?

This can be a lonely business. What do you do when you’re at the bottom of the curve? You’ve just been fired by a client, you’ve lost that “guaranteed” contract you were promised, the feedback on your session was subterranean, and the bills are mounting in the mail box.

We’ve all been there. Welcome to life. Here’s Dr. Weiss’s prescription to escape a funk.

  1. Engage in something you love to do. Don’t worry about more time off the job. Walk the dog. Go to a movie. Work in an amateur theater group. Go to the beach. Ski. Ride the bike. Whatever it takes to make you smile, do it. You need to turn distress into happiness, and you can control your behaviors to do so.
  2. Tell yourself that it could be worse, and the bad news is not all that bad. You lost a contract, not a loved one. You were deceived, not destroyed. Participants didn’t like your best effort, it wasn’t that you didn’t prepare. Life goes on. Read the daily paper. You’ll find people with REAL problems.
  3. Talk it out with an objective other. Find someone you trust to tell the truth—not someone who simply blindly supports you (that’s what dogs are for)—and have them analyze the situation and help you set priorities. There are probably a couple of things you should do before the rest, and knowing what they are is a powerful step. If your spouse or significant other can help with that, then don’t keep secrets about your state of mind. That’s not noble. That’s stupid.
  4. Identify the exact nature of the discomfort, and don’t deal with ambiguity. “I’m lousy at this business” is an issue that defies corrective action. However, “I didn’t learn enough about the prospect’s background” is a specific cause that can be corrected next time. Neurotics think that everything is their fault, and those with personality disorders think that everything is someone else’s fault. Avoid both extremes and just find out what specifically went wrong. It’s about cause, not fault.
  5. Analyze your successes. We’ve all had those, too. Isolate what common factors are responsible for your greatest successes, and determine if you’ve stopped employing them for some reason, or are not using them enough. Get your ammunition together.
  6. Don’t obsess. Get over it. If you really did blow it by insulting the prospect’s spouse, spilling food on yourself, misspelling the client’s name, or freezing during a key interview, join the club. It happens. Move on. The only thing worse than an honest error is the obsession that makes a one-time event into an ongoing burden.
  7. Find a mentor. We all become too isolated, to insulated, and too introspective. Find someone who can provide honest, objective feedback on subjects of your preference. Use him or her as a continuing sounding board and planning partner.
  8. When you do succeed, rejoice. We clobber ourselves when we’re down, but don’t reward ourselves when we’re up. By enjoying the good times, the bad times are kept in perspective.
  9. Call me in the morning.