We've all been there. Projects fail, presentations flop, and opportunities evaporate. These setbacks don't define you or your career though--they can't. You have too much to offer to let the temporary condition of a failure impact your long-term potential. However, recovering from a failure and trying to pick yourself up when you're down is one of the hardest things to do, precisely because your energy is low and you're questioning the things you thought were true.

So, what can you do when you've had a big fail or maybe a string of smaller issues that have added up to a significant setback in your mind?

Plot your comeback.

We love stories of people who have overcome tough challenges to win in the end. Your story can be one of these. How? It's all in how you think about your path to success.

  1. The first thing to know is that you're the one that says when you're done. That's one of the amazingly beautiful things about our lives and careers that we often overlook. You might be tired and down right now but you have the power and control to determine whether or not this is the last chapter or the beginning of a new one. To start, tell yourself that you're not done yet and this recent challenge is just a part of your journey.
  2. Second, get really clear on what went wrong, what went right, and what you learned. Taking these lessons to heart now means that you won't have to repeat them. Take some time to reflect on the links between a series of events. From your perspective, what caused that one thing to happen? Then, what happened next? Understanding how events related to one another is a critical piece of information that will help you chart a different path in the future.
  3. Think about the essential plot or story arc in just about every movie ever made. There is an introduction, where we get to know the main character. Then for a while, things seem to be going well until there is a major obstacle or problem. The story might take some twists and turns as the hero eventually figures out a solution, takes action, and triumphs. Know that this is your story. Lay out the pieces in this order. Go ahead and write the ending exactly as you see it. Describe yourself overcoming the odds and succeeding in the end, with the outcome being achieving your goals.
  4. Note the specific steps you're going to take to reach that goal--this is plotting your comeback. It's the focused energy you need to invest to reach that final step. Remember that no one defines this end except for you. Any setbacks are just that--they're temporary and can and will be overcome.

Plotting your comeback when you're down can be precisely the kind of energy you need to pick yourself up and keep going. Everyone has setbacks but what differentiates successful people from those who are still struggling is the ability to persevere in the face of these challenges and, ultimately, reach their goals. This is your story. You are in charge of the ending.