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RISMEDIA, May 3, 2008-(MCT)-Q: I’ve suffered a few setbacks and disappointments in the last year, and seem to be bogged down in them. A business that I began failed and my long-term girlfriend left me for someone else. I want to move past this, but just don’t seem able to bounce back. What I can I do?”

A: Let’s pretend for a few moments that we are in a seminar, and let me ask for a show of hands:

How many of you have ever been rejected by anyone, for anything, at any time in your life?

How many of you have ever suffered a defeat over something large or small, for any reason, at any time in your life?

How many of you would not raise your hand no matter what I asked? Sorry, just a little seminar humor there.

All of us have suffered rejection and defeat at some point in our lives. Loss of jobs, broken relationships, deaths, disappointments, or just the ups and downs of everyday living.

Motivational speaker W. Mitchell has been quoted as saying, “It’s not what happens to us that matters, it’s what we do about it that makes the difference.”

With that quote in mind, I’ve noticed that when presented with rejection and/or defeat, most people have one of two reactions. They either let it beat them or they rise above it.

I call these two responses “dropping dead” and “bouncing back.” Let’s take a closer look at each of these two choices.

How to “Drop Dead”

– Believe that this event defines you and your life now and forever. In other words, it’s a final judgment of who you are.
– Lose perspective. Focus only on what happened to you and nothing else.
– Organize your thoughts, feelings, what you talk about, in other words, your whole life, around what has happened. Talk about nothing else. Bore your friends.
– Take a “dead roach approach.” Flat on your back with your legs in the air, no power, giving up.
– Quit. Give up. Throw in the towel. Or whatever losing metaphor you can find.
– Believe in your heart that you have failed. Even worse, define yourself as a failure.
– Focus on the past, something you can do nothing about.
– Go it alone.

How to “Bounce Back”

– Decide to. It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “People are about as happy as they decide to be.” I think it’s the same with bouncing back. I realize that sounds so simple, but that’s really where it starts.
– Implement the principle of “NEXT!” This one comes from the world of sales. The top sales people in any field have trained themselves to handle rejection by saying “next” to themselves. In this context “next” means to move on into the future and not get stuck in the past, even the recent past.
– Implement the principle of “Open Doors.” God never closes one door without opening several others. We have to look for them, however.
– Focus on the present and future, two things you can do something about. The best way to predict the future is to create it as close as you can to the way you would like it to be.
– Install a new belief that says I can only fail if I quit or if I don’t learn something from the experience. In this way you have to try really hard to fail, sort of like failing gym class.
– Get the support you need.
– Make these two crucial distinctions:

– Make a place for what has happened in your life. It may stink, not be fair, and you may hate it. But it did happen, and denying it will only come back to bite you later on.
– Put it in its place. Which is behind you, in the past. Think of the event like a chapter in a book that you do not have to read again and again.

– Become a bouncer! A bouncer is someone who has taken a huge leap past just merely surviving. Some folks consider it a compliment to be called a survivor. Spare me. Let’s bounce back and live our best life!

About the Author: Jeff Herring, MS, LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist. E-mail him at or, for more tips and tools for living you can visit