How you mentally frame the inevitable setbacks you face in life is the key to building grit and resilience and ultimately achieving success.

Consider Maria Konnikova, who said that reframing setbacks is one of the most important lessons she learned in her two-year journey to becoming a professional poker player. In a recent phone conversation, Konnikova, author of the new book The Biggest Bluff, told me that, prior to learning poker, she had never played a hand of cards in her life. 

Konnikova has a secret weapon, however--a PhD in psychology. 

Success at poker requires skill and luck. Every once in a while you'll hit an unlucky run of cards, no matter how much time you've put in to master the skills. The same is true in a pandemic when the skills you have don't seem to be helping your business or career. 

During an unexpected crisis, the story you tell yourself and the words you use to talk to yourself are more critical than ever. 

Build a Victory Mindset

In poker, a "bad beat" means you're holding a hand that, statistically, should win a majority of the time. But the player loses anyway.

A poor player has a negative mindset. They tell themselves that they don't have any control over their destiny and that they'll keep losing in the future, no matter how hard they work. 

A successful player, on the other hand, focuses on the process and not the outcome. Their thinking goes like this: The cards went against me this time but I made good decisions. It's not a reflection of my skills. If I keep making these good decisions, I'll win more often than I lose.

And I think poker acts as a metaphor for what small-business owners and entrepreneurs are experiencing today.

The economy is terribly uncertain and is messing with our mindset as entrepreneurs. It's too easy to wallow in what could have been or should have been, had it not been for the pandemic.

Instead, you should be asking yourself:

Was I making the right decisions before this unlucky hand?

Am I building the skills I need to have to rise to the next level in my career?

Am I searching for opportunities in the middle of the crisis?

The words you use to frame your current situation will change your mindset and elevate your mood. A positive mindset allows you to stay open to new possibilities where others see barriers, and a positive mood will lift your spirits and attract people in your life who will help, support, or hire you.

Change the Meaning of an Event

There's an entire body of psychological research called cognitive reappraisal. It simply means putting a positive frame around a negative situation by changing the meaning of an event with the words you use.

A famous study at Columbia University using brain scans found that our internal mindset triggers physical changes in our brain. The brain's amygdala, the area associated with fear and anxiety, "saw a reduction in activity" when participants were instructed to reappraise a negative situation and turn it into a positive one. 

Many of the studies on reappraisal are done using the words of champion athletes. For example, Kobe Bryant once said that failure doesn't exist, and Michael Jordan said he missed thousands of shots in his career. Bad breaks didn't stop the basketball greats from making adjustments and trying again.

Successful individuals in any field used positive words to frame an outcome. It's an imperfect world, and despite hours of practice and years of experience, the ball won't always bounce your way, you'll be dealt a bad hand, or an unprecedented pandemic will shift your plans. 

Philosopher and psychologist William James once said, "The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes." 

Alter your attitude by telling yourself a more empowering story. You might feel your brain change right away.