3 Steps for Getting Back Up When Life Knocks You Down

Knocked down

It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up.” ~Vince Lombardi

I guess I’ve always been a creative soul. Even as a young lad of four or five I had teachers taking my drawings of cartoon characters home to show their families.

Over the next twenty years I aspired to be a Ghostbuster, The Karate Kid, and then (when it turned out there wasn’t much call for eight-year-old ghost hunters and no suitable Mr Miyagi characters around) a writer, and finally a guitarist, all with varying degrees of success.

So it’s safe to say I’ve always had big dreams. For a long time, these dreams were enough to sustain me. I had purpose and that was great. Yet over time, after years of almost (but not quite) getting there, the added heartache of disappointment began to knock me down a little.

You see, the problem was that while I was dreaming big, I was also living under a habit of self-sabotage, of giving up too soon.

For a long time it was a similar tale: I’d have a vision set out for myself—making music, writing a book. And I’d immerse myself for months, even years, practicing, studying, trying to become the absolute best at it. Yet, when it came time to launch my creation to the wider world I lost all my courage.

I realize now this came down to a culmination of fear of failure, imposter syndrome, my ego being too connected to the results, and probably some plain old impatience.

You see, it was fun for me when I was in control, when I was at the creation-planning-strategizing stage, but once other people’s opinions were involved I became too afraid to push myself. I became very good at focusing on worst case scenarios, which then stopped me from really putting myself out there.

If this is sounding familiar to you, that’s because unfortunately, it’s familiar for a lot of us.

For many years I was in a vicious cycle of total self-belief leading to blinkered hope leading to crushing self-doubt. I was existing under stories and limiting beliefs that no longer served me, yet at the time I couldn’t see them and it took a long time before I was able to break free.

This phase of my life finally culminated for me when, after six years of struggle, of highs and lows and pyrrhic victories, the rock band I’d written and played guitar in came crashing to an end in a flurry of disagreements.

I was devastated. The one thing that I’d put my heart and soul into for so long and now it was over. All the hopes and expectations I’d had for my life were dashed in an instant.

Now, I appreciate that we’ve all suffered similar experiences and most, I imagine, have been worse than what I describe here. I’m aware that the demise of a rock ‘n' roll band is not on the same plane as a long-term relationship ending or the death of a loved one (both of which I’ve experienced). But also, things can become microcosmic very easily, and for me, at this stage in my life, I had lost everything.

I'd been committed to making music at the detriment of relationships, vacations, and a proper career path. Now here I was, pretty much down and out with nothing to show for it but a few thousand copies of our last single in my parents’ roof space. (I think they’re still there.)

For the first time in years I felt lost. I’d thrown everything I had into the last six years, emotionally and physically, and I had no plan B.

I suddenly felt stuck and completely overwhelmed by doubt. I spent hours wondering where it had all gone wrong. Was it my fault? Had I done enough? Had I done too much? Why did it always happen this way?

As we all know, though, navel-gazing only gets us so far, and thankfully, after months of self-analysis, I had an epiphany.

I suddenly realized that I was the only one who could change how I reacted to this situation and move myself forward. At once I profoundly understood that if I just shifted my mindset a little I had so many more choices than I initially thought.

And this is the amazing thing. We all have these choices. In every moment. We all have the control to change how we feel about any given situation.

I finally understood that only I could get over these recurring patterns of behavior and move forward in life. I made the decision that day to change my outlook and I’ve never looked back.

As I explored these ideas I discovered three important steps that, when followed, can go a long way in getting you back on track. These are small shifts in mindset but with a powerful long-range scope for your success and happiness:

1. Hold yourself accountable.

The thing was, I never had up until then. You see, I used to be an expert at blame. I blamed other people (a lot), myself (mainly), and the world (usually). I used to wonder why things weren’t happening for me the way I wanted them to. But then I never really did anything about it.

That day I suddenly understood that I alone was the only person who could make my life better. Me. Only me.

I held myself fully accountable for maybe the first time ever, and at that moment I became not just empowered but free. Because I was now in control of my life fully and completely. I realized that up until then I’d been making excuses for what had or hadn’t happened without taking responsibility.

I think we’re all in danger of this too. We find it easy to blame everything else for our problems without looking inward at what negative beliefs or habits are really to blame. In fact, most of us create excuses out of nothing. As a species we’re very good at it.

But imagine if we were to put the same amount of effort for excuse-making into service? Determination? Enthusiasm?

I’m sure we can all come up with a plethora of excuses to fall back on as to why we don’t do something, but that is not the path to happiness.

Imagine how different life would life be if you were always conscious of those times when you were making excuses. Relationship didn’t work out? It’s your responsibility. Not doing the job you want? Well, it’s your responsibility. Feeling unhealthy and tired? You guessed it, it’s your responsibility.

Don’t judge yourself, yet simply ask what you could have done to get different results. Hold yourself accountable and take action on what you’ve learned.

Taking responsibility means you allow yourself to be vulnerable and open in the world. If amazing stuff is happening, you played a role. If tough stuff is happening, you played a role. This way you too can reframe your experiences and take back the ownership of your life.

2. Move your focus.

I also recognized that I’d fallen into a nasty habit of focusing on the obstacles in every situation rather than the opportunities. I’d been looking behind me at what had happened rather than looking in front of me at what could happen.

When I realized that, everything changed.

Because the thing is, what we focus on is what we move toward. It becomes our reality. So when I was only focusing on feeling unworthy and what I hadn’t done, I was creating a life of regret and unhappiness. By changing my focus, by looking forward again and focusing on the next step in life, I instantly saw sunlight bursting through the clouds.

For me this was not about focusing on something and expecting to magically conjure it into existence but simply focusing on the good. By focusing on what I could do next, rather than my self-imposed limitations, I was able to align with the amazing possibilities life had to offer.

So when you’re feeling knocked down, ask yourself, what is my focus right now? Am I focusing on something I want or something I don’t want? Am I seeing the opportunities or only the obstacles? What am I looking at?

The answers to these questions will help you get clarity, create awareness and elevate you to where you need to be.

3. Change how you speak to yourself.

The last thing I realized was that I had to change how I spoke to myself. When I stopped and listened to my inner voice I realized that I was the one who had been dragging me down. Yes, I’d had a few knock backs, but I could choose how I was dealing with the situation, and currently I was choosing to beat myself up over it. That had to stop.

Just like choosing where we place our focus, the language we use is also something we have full control over if we take a moment to connect with this power.

On that day I understood something that I know to be true first hand: We are nothing but the stories that we tell ourselves on a regular basis.

I realized I’d been living under a story that I’d told myself for too long—that my self-worth was connected with my results. And of course, no one wants this pressure, so I had been self-sabotaging this whole time to protect myself, to keep myself small and safe.

Becoming aware of this meant I could begin to step away from an ego-driven focus and begin to enjoy the journey more. I actively stepped away from the result and learned to simply enjoy life, in the moment.

We all live under similar stories that we've told ourselves for too long. In fact we’ve told them for such a long time they are completely real to us. I'm not worthy. I can't be happy. I will never be a dancer.

What’s worse, too, is that most of us do know deep down that these are limiting beliefs, yet we still have trouble overcoming these specific barriers. These stories have become who we are and our subconscious protects who it thinks we are with all its might, no matter how destructive the story.

The minute I made the choice to let go of these beliefs I knew I was going to be okay. I’d turned an important corner toward a happier, more enriching life. This is something available for us all if we take this on-board; we can simply accept what is without resistance and then choose to let go of it. We all have that choice.

When we take responsibility for our lives, shift our focus, and change the way we talk to ourselves we take back control of our experiences.

I know that it’s still an ongoing process for me, but I also know that by using these three steps we can all deal with any situation we find ourselves in. That day I chose to take back control of my life and step into a more powerful, enjoyable role.

It might take a big personal issue to prompt this change, but if you’re feeling knocked down right now then it’s easier than you might think to get back up.

Most people believe they can’t control their emotions, but they can control where they place their focus, the language they use, and whether they choose to take responsibility for their happiness.

This is not about faking it, but understanding what resources you already have then taking small actions to shape the fulfilment and happiness in your life and relationships.

Change takes a second, getting to the point where you’re ready to change is what can take a little longer—but with the right steps it can happen a lot more quickly.

About Matt Hattersley

Matt is a coach who works with heart-centred business owners, coaches, and creatives…or those who aspire to be. These are people who want to become more impactful and influential leaders in their careers, relationships, and community. For more info and insights connect with him here.

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  • Very Impressive Article…

  • Jack McMillan

    Excellent. Thank you Matt

  • Julay

    Wow.. so similar experiences. I can see these behaviors in me. Thank you very much!

  • badhombrebigdo

    standard self-help talking points.. .nothing too innovative here… but some people will be able to glean use out of these tactics and points… Generally speaking they can be helpful, but they’re not the whole story, and can lead to further devastation when people attempt to apply them and just simply can’t..

    I think the bigger problem is the thinking that ‘one size fits all’ in terms of how people can sort of come back in life. No two people are the same no matter how much we might want to believe that and that makes their problems unique and the solutions complex and nuanced. Simple steps and advisement can in fact come off cruel and be counterproductive.

  • Permed~Doodle

    This excerpt really resonated with me: “So when you’re feeling knocked down, ask yourself, what is my focus right now? Am I focusing on something I want or something I don’t want? Am I seeing the opportunities or only the obstacles? What am I looking at?
    The answers to these questions will help you get clarity, create awareness and elevate you to where you need to be”
    I have attention deficit disorder so these three simple questions, I am going to write down and memorize because I believe the answers will help to keep me moving ahead. My life has been in a blur since losing my health, marriage, and hard earned career. I haven’t quite figured out how to keep momentum going. Thank you, Matt, for a thoughtful and insightful article. .

  • Thanks for this and I couldn’t agree more. But in my defence this is a short article to help get people moving forward a little more and only designed in many ways to promote further discussion – just like this 🙂

    Because I agree, usually there’s quite a big gap between us wanting something (to start a new business, find love, create your masterpiece) and us actually summoning the natural confidence and motivation to achieve it.
    So what happens is you start to feel unworthy, you feel like it’s your fault.
    You feel you don’t have what it takes because, well, if you really want it you’d make it happen for yourself, right? So it is important that when doing any growth work on ourselves we are kind to ourselves too – and don’t push it if it doesnt feel right for us.

    For some it is a longer process – but as you state, some will be able (and I think have) got some useful pointers from this, albeit, brief article. But I do appreciate your words a lot so thank you for your input. Loving you, be blessed Matt

  • Thanks Julay, glad it connected with you, M

  • Best wishes to you Jack thanks

  • thank you so much for sharing this and being so open about where you are right now. I really hope they help and I’d love to hear how you get on with them. Any further help I can offer too please let me know. Be well, Matt

  • Permed~Doodle

    Thank you for offering to further help. I hope to share more about how the questions help me to evolve. With gratitude~

  • FrogBank

    Thanks for this article Matt, I was exactly what I needed right now!

  • Ale Mi

    Hi. I like a lot this post. The awareness about our life in function of our resposabilities is important for me. But in many times it’s difficoult to have this awareness because our mental rigidity! I’m following this site since long time! I found a little conflict in these histories. For example, in many posts it’s written that “When we try to change we could became really depressed because we move away from our nature”. In other we find “we are the only “we are only responsible for our own lives, so we could try to change”.
    What are you thinking about this? This is my hobbyhorse!!!

  • Layo

    Thank you I really needed this

  • If I may, Ale Mi, the idea is to change to move toward our true nature if we’re not there yet. If we’re moving away from truth, we’re not going in the right direction. Change is good if we are trying to purify or perfect ourselves. It’s true that we have responsibility for our own actions and thoughts. “The buck stops here.”

  • Charlene Waeghe


  • Charlene Waeghe

    Loved the article. Very moving. Thank u!

  • We shape our life by changing the way we relate to our emotions and thoughts. If you become identified with your thoughts and emotions you will fall into the abyss of suffering and life will become very impoverished by that suffering.
    It is so important to change the way you relate to mind, and this is the focus of mindfulness meditation and mindfulness therapy. The hard knocks of life is painful but suffering is something we add on through our reactive identification with mind.

    The Boulder Center for Online Mindfulness Therapy