Have you ever had a shocking setback in your career?
Something that just came out of the blue, out of nowhere, and swiped you off your feet?
Were you moving forward and feeling SO good about your Art, really feeling like you were rocking it out, only to have this enormous blow?
The rejection letter
Losing your voice
A team or band member leaving
It can be so devastating!
Before this happened, I imagine you were thinking,
Everything is working out!
And then, BOOM…..you’re down, and you just feel confusion.
You felt like you had this amazing momentum going with your Art. You felt like you were finally making it, and then this THING happened, and that voice comes up in your head saying,
I told you this was too good to be true
Obviously you haven’t made it yet
This setback means you are doing something WRONG.
And the kicker…
You’re just not good enough
And the heartbreaking piece is, you WANT to be. You want to be successful as a full time Artist. You LOVE what you do, and just want to know HOW to make it happen.
So, what do we do in the face of setbacks?
How do we stay the course when we feel so discouraged?
And most importantly, what does the setback actually MEAN?
I’m on the side of the room in dance class, about an hour into class. We’ve done the full warm-up and are just getting ready to do leaps across the floor.
I feel great. Energy is up, body feels good!
I do a chasse to prepare for the leap and as my legs come together in the air, I feel a sharp pull in my right calf. Burning, it clenches tight. I know something is wrong. I don’t leap, and when I get to the other side of the room…I can’t put my weight on my right leg.
My calf has completely seized, I can’t roll through my foot.
The front desk gets me ice and I immediately call my husband, as he’s an Occupational Therapist. He tells me I will need to ice for 15 minutes with the calf elevated, and it starts to dawn on me….I’m on the Upper West Side of Manhattan….and somehow I’ve got to get home. I’ve got to make it all the way back to the Jersey Shore…..and I’m by myself.
And the question pops in,
Can I walk?
My husband says,
You’re going to need to take a cab to Penn Station.
When the 15 minutes was up, I realized I couldn’t put any weight on my right leg. I hobbled very slowly to the elevator, and caught a cab right outside the entrance. When we arrived at Penn Station, the driver had let me off very close to the escalators down to the train station. With my regular mobility, I would get to the entrance in under a minute….but not tonight.
It felt like an eternity hobbling from the sidewalk to the escalator. I became aware for a moment of a man staring at me, but stayed present to the moment, and to what I needed to do next…which was get to the train.
Which I did….slowly, holding onto the railing, keeping weight off my right leg.
Two hours later, I arrived home, after driving from the train station, gingerly flexing my ankle on the gas pedal, staying focused on the road.
One step at a time.
I closed the front door and looked at my husband and said,
I made it.
He set me up on the couch, got me ice, and said,
You’re going to need to be completely off your leg for 48 hours.
I had all kinds of plans for the next 48 hours, and I got out my phone and started to send emails to change those so I could work from home.
And over the next 48 hours, I crawled around on my hands and knees in my home. I had to put knee pads on because my kneecaps were getting sore. I was going up and down the stairs on my rear end like a toddler.
Not what I expected.
Not what I planned.
Certainly not ideal…..and yet, as I was staying off my feet, I took a moment to recognize what didn’t happen.
I didn’t panic. I didn’t go into doomsday thinking, attaching meaning to my self worth as a person.
I didn’t say,
This means you are BAD.
This means you are WRONG.
This means you should stop going into the city to dance.
And I used to…ALL the time! When I would experience setbacks, injuries or disappointments in my career, I would panic and spiral in the moment. I would think the setbacks meant I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t meant to be successful, and that I was doing it all wrong. Because, if I was doing it RIGHT, then everything would work out, right?
If I was doing it right, then nothing bad would happen and everything would FLOW…right?
Have you ever felt that?
I know I did and it led to all kinds of suffering and ultimately kept me stuck from truly owning my voice as an Artist. It kept the voice alive in my head that I wasn’t good enough.
So, what changed?
I now have the tools to deal with crisis. I now have the tools to deal with the unexpected, and because of that I am back up on my feet, standing at my desk writing you right now.
In the face of a setback, I can stay PRESENT.
Why is this important?
Because what commonly happens in setbacks is we go into future thinking. We think everything is going to fall apart. We think everything is ruined…when the fact is you don’t KNOW what the future is, and it’s how you DEAL with the setback that makes all the difference. Your mind will race away and start to create a reality that actually isn’t TRUE, it’s just something that’s been fabricated in the moment because you are feeling scared.
And that’s human.
But, if you want to be able to have a career that lasts, you have to learn how to deal with setbacks. Because they will happen. We can’t control other people, in fact, we can’t control anything.
My Zen teacher recently said,
A lot of people suffer….but many don’t grow.
These setbacks are scary, and we suffer in the face of them, but can you stay present in the moment to LEARN from them?
What if the setback is here FOR you?
What is this is the perfect time for you to learn how to rise above your inner critic?
What if the setback is actually opening up an even better opportunity or pointing you towards where you need to place your attention this year?
When I got really quiet a few days after the injury, I realized that I actually had two calf spasms in my right calf within the last six months. With moving to the suburbs of NJ, I wasn’t taking dance class as regularly and also wasn’t walking as much, so I imagine this means my calf was weakening.
I realized, I needed to add more weight training or something during my week to keep my calves active.
But here’s the most important thing….when I came to the action step….it wasn’t making myself WRONG. It was actually coming from a place of LOVE; from a place of how this is going to HELP me live the life I want.
And what about you?
What has been a setback you experienced recently?
How did you handle it?
What could be possible if you had tools to move easily and faster through your challenges?
What if this is the year for you to learn how?
What if you are actually Unstoppable?
Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography