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5 Ways To Rise From The Ashes Like A Phoenix After A Setback

Written by: Doron Willis, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Let’s be honest, starting over sucks! One minute everything is going according to plan and then out of nowhere, Boom! Life reminds you that although you have the autonomy to make your own choices, there are still some things that lie beyond your control. And in these moments it feels as if your whole world has just been flipped upside down. Maybe that flip has come in the form of a divorce, in the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or receiving bad news about your health. Maybe it’s more subtle like starting over on a project that you once were so passionate about or those fitness goals that you vow to achieve year after year, but somehow someway you lose the motivation to keep going.

No matter how you slice it, start over pie sucks! I sometimes feel like I have lived three lifetimes with all of the setbacks and start overs that I have endured. I have gone from being an athlete in college to dropping out of college, to being a fitness trainer and actor, then back to college to become a therapist, only to go back to being a fitness trainer to finally settling on being a therapist. At least for now. I have even had the unfortunate experience of going through a divorce and the breakdown of another long term relationship just when I thought life was working in my favor, only to later realize that life was still working in my favor. I just needed to pick myself back up and keep putting one foot in front of the other to find out how it was happening for me and not to me.

However, if you have ever experienced or are going through any of the life changes that I previously mentioned, then you know that picking yourself back up after a major setback is easier said than done. Sadly enough, a lot of individuals will just throw in the towel after going through a life-changing event because they feel as though time is no longer on their side or they have simply lost faith in their ability to begin again. Today, I am going to share with you my go-to strategy to help you cultivate the motivation and courage to rise again like a phoenix from the ashes more powerful, stronger, wiser, and more enthusiastic. Maybe a little TMI, but I even have a tattoo of a phoenix coming out of the fire to remind me what I am capable of. I’m not suggesting you get a tattoo to remind yourself of your inner strengths, but if it helps go for it.

1. Life Is Always Changing (The Law of Impermanence)

If you have not realized by now, outside of death and taxes, change is the other guarantee that life will constantly give us. Usually, when we experience a setback, this is life’s way of reminding us about the law of impermanence. Buddhist philosophy states that the Law of Impermanence informs us that everything has an expiration date, even our physical existence. Or to simply put it another way, everything that rises whether pleasant or unpleasant will pass away. By acknowledging and accepting this law, I have come to understand that most of the unpleasant life changes that I had to endure were put in place to help me continue my journey to self-discovery and uncover my uniqueness.

2. Remember Your Why (Give Your Pain A Purpose)

During chaos, it is easy to forget what you are striving towards because life will appear to be coming at you like a 90 miles per hour fastball or better yet, a curveball. Keeping your Why in focus will help you get back up on that horse and continue your journey. All you have to do is trust in your vision and trust that the universe knows the best way to get you there. Now, I hope that your Why is more than just milestones, but something that can inspire others. For example, my Why is to help encourage others to go on an inward journey to uncover their light from within so that they can shine in this world as whole and authentic sentient beings. I guess you can call me a lightworker. Now, I would be lying if I said I did not have certain goals or milestones that I would like to accomplish such as writing a book or giving a TedTalk, but my overall Why is to motivate as many people as I possibly can to not be afraid of shining their light.

3. Take Inventory Of What Is Still Going Right (Express Gratitude)

When your world is being tossed up like the house in the Wizard of Oz, it is so easy to disregard the other aspects of your life that are still working in your favor. I recall watching a TedTalk given by Lucy Hone on resiliency, and she posed the question that we all should ask ourselves when dealing with adversity, “What are you losing by focusing on what you have lost?” Psychologist Rick Hanson even states that our brains are hardwired to fixate and ruminate on the bad stuff, and when this happens we minimize our ability to rise above the challenge. So how do I redirect my mind from constantly focusing on the bad stuff? I begin to say my gratitude prayer. “Thank you that I still have my right mind and able body”. “Thank you for the resources that are still available to me”. You get the point. By reminding myself that not all is lost, I still have a chance to correct the ship. As long as you have breath in your lungs, resources made available to you (of course you will have to be resourceful), and the will to keep fighting, you are still in the game. Don’t lose sight of this!

4. Revisit Your Past Successes (Identify Your Inner Strengths)

The fact that I have overcome adversity in the past, I often like to reflect on those experiences and reconnect to my inner strengths for motivation. Whenever I do this, I rediscover that I am persistent, determined, curious, and courageous just to name a few. However, be very careful and cognizant not to get stuck in the past because doing so can trick you into believing that your best days are all behind you. Ask yourself, “What helped me overcome my past challenges?” “What intangible traits do I possess that can be considered strengths?” Maybe you are creative or a good problem solver. Whatever the intangible strengths are that helped you push through adversity in the past, I am almost certain that it is still in you. All you have to do is reconnect to them.

5. Just Breathe (Increase Your Self-Awareness)

One of the first things that we usually hear when all hell is breaking loose or when we are in panic mode is, breathe. By just breathing, you will be able to stay connected to all of yourself and not just live in your head trying to figure out where to go from here. Conscious breathing will help you release the negative energy that will have stored up in your body from the stress of having to start again, and decrease the chances of any other ailments from developing. Studies have reported that taking deep deliberate breaths when stressed will help lower your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, regulate your body’s fight or flight response system, and clear your mind so that you can effectively come up with your next best plan. I like to participate in breathwork workshops and in a daily meditation practice to increase my self-awareness, which has improved my ability to stay calm during stressful moments.

Starting over in life is rarely fun, especially when it is not on your terms. However, the fact that you have made it this far in life is an indication that you are stronger than you think or give yourself credit for. As long as you keep in mind that change is inevitable, you remember your Why, you don’t lose sight of what you still have by focusing on what you have lost, you reconnect to your inner strengths, and you keep breathing, you too will rise again like a phoenix.

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Doron Willis, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Doron Willis, LMFT, MA. Doron is a Mental and Sports Psychotherapist helping individuals with a competitive spirit uncover and breakthrough their mental blocks in order to foster resiliency and perform at an optimal level in life consistently. Doron is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of California, a former Division I collegiate athlete, and a certified fitness and sports performance trainer, so he knows all about the importance of cultivating a strong and sound mind. Doron specializes in life transitions, resiliency, sports performance, men's issues, and helping individuals find meaning and purpose for their life.

Doron earned his Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in marriage & family therapy from Phillips Graduate University, and his Bachelor of Science degree in Health Sciences from Arizona State University. Additionally, he is trained in EMDR therapy from the EMDR Institute and holds a certificate in Sports & Exercise Psychology from California State University Dominguez Hills, and a certification as a Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES) from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Doron is also the author of "The IT Factors For Athletic Dominance: Identifying the traits of elite athletes.



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