Overcoming Setbacks in Life
Questions to Ask Yourself When Something Bad Happens
- Is this actually going to materially hurt me over a significant period of
time? How much cash would I have paid to prevent it? If not a lot, maybe I
shouldn’t be too upset.
- Is there some hidden upside I haven’t noticed yet? How could this actually
end up being beneficial?
- Is this misfortune funny or ironic in some way? For example, is it either
completely typical or totally unexpected in an amusing way? If I’m
catastrophising, are my over-the-top misinterpretations of the situation
themselves kind of funny? Would I see the funny side if it happened to a
- Is this the kind of bad thing I should have anticipated, such that it should
have already been built into how I feel about the world?
- Could something even worse have happened that didn’t? Are there other people
who’ve ended up even worse off than me, which make me look, if anything,
- What unexpected good things have happened to me lately, that have offset my
bad luck in this case?
- What would I say to someone else if this happened to them? Presumably not “I
suggest you… feel bad 👌”.
- Do I endorse the idea that everyone in the world who encounters a situation
of this kind should also be sad? If not, why should I be sad? I should not.
- What can I learn from this situation that will make me better off by
preventing the same, or worse, in future?
- Is there any way I can get around or overcome this problem which actually
won’t be so bad? If so, I should just do that.
- Based on past experience, do I have the strength to get through this
tragedy? Unless this is among the worst things in my life, the answer is
almost certainly yes! Have I gotten through something similarly bad in the
past? Again, almost certainly, yes! Am I still distressed by similar
misfortunes from the past? Almost certainly not – in which case, why bother
being distressed about this thing now?
Questions to Ask When Someone Wrongs Me
- Can I see a way that what they’ve done would have been reasonable from their point of view?
- Is there any way of interpreting their behaviour that doesn’t imply that they
were inconsiderate or mean-spirited? For example, maybe they didn’t know some
relevant information, or foresee this outcome? Or just got unlucky? Yes
people are dumb and make stupid mistakes. Shit happens. 🤷 Just get over it.
- Has this person ever done any nice things for me that help to offset the harm they’ve done here?
- Have I ever wronged someone similarly, by accident, or through selfishness?
Yes. Is this person actually less considerate than me, all things considered?
50/50 they aren’t.
- If the above fails, can I just avoid this person in future, and pay them no
further mind? Hopefully! In which case, problem solved and I can move on.