Last January, my accountant disappeared right in the middle of tax season.
The last email I got from him mentioned he had asked the tax office for a 2 weeks extension to file and pay my corporate tax return. “Don’t worry Giorgia,” he said, “worst case scenario, my insurance will kick in and pay any penalty for late filing.”
As the deadline approached, I emailed, texted, and called him every day. He never replied.
The day before the extension period ran out, he finally sent me an email: “I resign from being your accountant.”
No explanation for his resignation. No mention of what was happening with my corporate tax return – of if he had started working on my personal tax return due two weeks later.
I took a deep breath, calmed down, and asked my friends if they could recommend me a good accountant.
Then, all hell broke loose.
My new accountant told me he needed to notify my old accountant and have him hand over my financial information – easier said than done.
My old accountant – unresponsive to all my attempts to contact him up until that point – started sending me some weird emails about having to pay some three months notice fee he had never mentioned before. It certainly was not in any contract I had signed.
I totally freaked out.
I immediately realised fixing this mess would take more time, money, and hassle than I had planned… and my mind already jumped to the worst case scenario.
I’d be forced to file so late, I’d get a huge tax bill I wouldn’t be able to pay. I’d be dragged to the courts. Forced to shut down my business.
Take a deep breath, Giorgia…
In the past, a challenge like this would have set me back for weeks, if not months.
This time, I cried, raged, and lied awake in bed for 4 days, worrying about all the ways it could go wrong.
Then, I calmed down, got my act together, and started dealing with the problem at hand.
How To Stay Calm During A Setback
How do you train yourself to stay calm when life throws you a big curveball and nothing goes your way?
Your first reaction is one of panic, fear, anger, worry, frustration, sadness… so many emotions come up and cloud your best judgement.
It’s easy to blame the world for being unfair to you – shouldn’t bad things happen only to bad people?! Why me?!
This way of thinking will lead you into a downward spiral of blame, anger, and fear if you let it. Instead, take back control and use these tips to stay calm and cool when dealing with a setback:
1. Prepare For The Unexpected
I’m a planner. I like to plan every aspect of my life and business, so I always know what will happen next.
Except, my plans never work out as I expect them to. Life always seems to get in the way and take things in a slightly (or completely) different direction… What’s that saying, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”?
Plan all you want (I do), but always prepare for the unexpected. You’ll never be fully in control.
The sooner you realise that, the easier it’ll be to deal with whatever life throws at you.
It’s not personal. Shit just happens sometimes.
2. Acknowledge Your Emotions
When you’re freaking out and feeling all the bad feels, you just want to push them away and not deal with them.
That always backfires. What you resist, persists. The more you try to fight your emotions – be it anger, fear, or frustration – the longer they’ll last.
Emotions just want your attention. They’re messengers letting you know what’s important to you and what you value.
Allow yourself to feel whatever emotion you’re feeling. Sit with it and let it run its course.
You’ll be surprised by how quickly all those bad feels go away when you just acknowledge them.
3. Identify The Lesson
I deeply believe that challenges and setbacks happen to teach you a lesson – usually one you refused to learn the easy way…
My old accountant had always been unreliable. I knew he had a tendency to leave work until the last minute and I had already been fined for one of his mistakes in the past. So why didn’t I switch accountant sooner?
I wish I could say I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. But this is a pattern for me. I hate breaking up with people, be they an old friend I have nothing in common with anymore or an unreliable accountant I only saw a couple of times a year.
This was life’s way of letting me know that, to go to the next level both in life and business, I have to break up with people who aren’t supporting me and having my best interests at heart.
What’s your setback trying to teach you? Learn the lesson, so you won’t have to go through it every again.
Related: It’s Not Fear. It’s Feedback.
4. Make A Plan
It’s hard to make a decision when you’re overcome with anger, fear, or anxiety. So don’t.
Wait until that wave of intense emotion has passed, identify the lesson your setback is teaching you, and make a plan from there.
What’s the right next step for you? If you don’t know, ask a friend or a professional who has the answer.
I didn’t know how to deal with this tax mess, so I asked my new accountant for advice and let him guide me through the process. Turns out, all I had to do was contact the tax office to let them know what was going on and wait one month till he could take over my financial affairs.
All that panic for nothing…
When you focus on the solution rather than the problem, things sort themselves out much faster.
5. Have A Self-Care Routine
When you’re freaking out, self-care goes out the window.
Those 4 days when I let panic get the better of me, I wasn’t eating or sleeping properly. I stopped meditating, journalling, and going for walks in the park – all the things that make me feel good and keep me sane.
On day 5, I decided enough was enough. I started the morning with 10 minutes of journaling followed by meditation. Then, I put my coat and scarf on and went for a long walk in the park to soothe my strained nerves.
I also talked it out with a couple of friends who gave me some very good advice and helped me see the positive in this situation.
The more you take care of yourself and surround yourself with people and things that make you feel good, the more resilient you become.
Related: How To Prevent Burnout
Wrapping It Up
I know a setback can feel like the end of the world. But it’s just a temporary hiccup. You can overcome it without too much stress and worry by expecting the unexpected, acknowledging your emotions, looking for the lesson, making a game plan, and taking good care of yourself.