Having Difficulty Staying Positive After A Setback? Use The “Ledger System” To Bounce Back!

It was 2010 and Rachelle Friedman was on top of the world.

She was about to get married and her four bridesmaids did what bridesmaids do – they threw her a great bachelorette party filled with dancing, dinner and fun.

To cap off the perfect night, the group decided to take a moonlight swim. In a playful gesture, a close friend pushed Rachel into the pool.

And then everything went horribly wrong.

Her head had struck the bottom of the pool and shattered two vertebrae, severed her spinal cord and left her permanently paralyzed from the chest down. She would never walk again.

One year later, Rachelle Friedman got married and became Rachelle Chapman. Two years later, she decided to share some thoughts on her experience during a question-and-answer Reddit session.

Her answers to the tough questions in that session will grip you.

When asked if things had changed for the worse after the accident she said, “Well things did change, but I can’t say in a bad way at all.” Then, when asked about her relationship with her husband she said, “I think we are just so happy because my injury could have been worse.”

With her world changed so drastically, how could she have such a great attitude? How is it possible to stay positive when things go wrong?

There’s a natural tendency in all of us to react emotionally when things don’t turn-out like we expected.

When something we wanted and hoped for fails to materialize, we feel a sense of disappointment and unhappiness. It’s easy to get disillusioned and feel sorry for ourselves.

But as difficult as these moments are, remaining negative about them is a choice. You read that right. It’s a choice. It’s your choice.

Now, some of you who have been through difficult times may not like what I just said. Hear me out…

Did you know that your conscious mind can only hold one thought at a time, either positive or negative? If you don’t believe me, try holding two conflicting thoughts in your mind. It’s impossible.

And we also know this about the mind – what you focus on expands. Whatever you put your attention on is what you’ll get more of.

Fill your mind with negative thoughts and you’ll be in a foul mood. Conversely, if you deliberately choose a positive thought to dwell upon, you keep your mind optimistic and your emotions positive. Since your thoughts and feelings determine your actions, you will tend to be a more constructive person, and you will start moving forward and get back on track with your goals in life.

Wobbling Weebles

In the 1970’s Hasbro invented a roly-poly toy called the Weeble. Tipping the egg-shaped Weeble would cause a weight located at the bottom-center to be lifted off the ground. Once released, gravitational force brings the Weeble back into an upright position.

This action gave rise to the popular catchphrase, “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down”.

And so must it be for anyone who wants to be successful. You can, and you will, wobble. But you cannot let life’s temporary setbacks make you permanently fall down.

You see, much of your ability to succeed comes from the way you deal with life and manage stress. One of the characteristics of successful people is that they recognize the inevitability of temporary disappointments and they accept them as a normal and a natural part of life. They do everything possible to avoid problems, but when problems come, superior people respond with a positive attitude and keep moving forward in the direction of their dreams.

I know what some of you may be thinking. So, how am I supposed to just think positive thoughts when I’m so !@#$% upset?

The answer lies in the ledger system.

One of the most underrated self-improvement concepts is developing a healthy sense of self-efficacy and how it can change your life. If you don’t already know, self-efficacy is your belief in your ability to influence outcomes in your life. It’s a combination of self-confidence and trusting in the process: it means you believe in yourself and that your efforts will be the difference between being successful or not.

Self-efficacy can be explained in a mindset:

  • Low self-efficacy -“Saving a little bit of money won’t make much of a difference, so why bother?”
  • High self-efficacy – “If I consistently save even small sums, one day I’ll have a large sum of money!”

High self-efficacy means you trust yourself. You trust what you’re doing will matter. Without it, everyday stress can make you feel hopeless. With it, you can do amazing things.

“Life happens to me” or “I create my life”?

The person with low self-efficacy doesn’t think his behavior really matters. He just exists and tries to enjoy life the best he can, riding life’s waves in his little boat. The high self-efficacy person knows that their decisions, especially the small ones, create vastly different results. They believe they create their life, not that life happens to them.  The low self-efficacy person complains about the wind. The high self-efficacy person anticipates the wind and adjusts his sails.

If you’ve been a serial goal quitter, then you want to pay close attention here.

Every time you have a setback or life throws you a curve ball, it’s only natural that your self-efficacy drops. Why? When faced with a setback, it can become (false) evidence that you do not influence outcomes in your life.

That is, unless you change the evidence. Enter the ledger system.

If I asked you to make a list under a heading labeled “Things I’m choosing to be negative about”, what would be on your list? Would it be things like:











Now, what if you just stopped there? Pretty miserable just to focus on that list isn’t it?  That’s the world of the low self-efficacy person and a life of repeated bouts of negativity and misery, in between short periods of positivity.

But what would happen if you added another column? Try this. Add a column to the right labeled “Things I’m choosing to be positive about instead”. Now, for each negative item in the left column, write a positive, empowered statement in the right column that is the negative item’s opposite.

Here’s an example:


Now let me say this about the above. This isn’t Pollyanna, happy talk psycho-babble. It’s about changing the “tape” that plays in your mind. So, when you encounter a setback you don’t automatically reach for the “woe is me” tape and play it over and over again, making yourself even more miserable. Playing that tape is a choice. And if it’s a choice, why not play a different tape? How about the “Whoa is me!” tape? That’s a tape that will help you regain your footing and get back to the business of life and accomplishing the big goals you have set for yourself.

And about those big goals. ..

The best way to build self-efficacy is to set smaller goals first. Rather than setting goals that you might not reach, try setting goals that you can absolutely crush first and then move the bar higher as you go.

For example, if you’re having trouble saving, it’s smarter to attempt saving 5% of your income each month than to attempt saving 50% each month right out of the gate. Doing the latter might result in a quick failure and reinforce your thinking that you cannot save money (low self-efficacy).  However, successfully completing even a small goal shows that you do influence outcomes (high self-efficacy).

At first, your self-efficacy might be like this: “I can meet this requirement every day with just a bit of discipline.” Later, it will grow into something more significant: “My net worth is increasing substantially because of my savings habit. This is working!” And from that point, it can snowball further into even bigger and better things.

I want to summarize this post with this statement: Please know that I’m not making light of anyone’s suffering with this article. Nor am I minimizing what Mrs. Chapman went through, down to some simple self-help soundbite of “Just be positive!”  Rather, I’m highlighting her courage and decision to be positive in spite of such a horrific event. In other words, if Mrs. Chapman can bounce back and choose to be positive, can you not do the same with whatever has got you down at the moment?

Know this: It’s OK to have setbacks and to temporarily feel bad about them. What’s not OK is to stew on the setbacks, setting-up a permanent “camp of misery.” It’s also not healthy to oscillate back and forth between positivity and negativity on a frequent basis. That’s a sign of low self-efficacy.

If you find yourself doing either, try the ledger system. Start replacing the negative “tapes” with positive ones. It won’t happen overnight, but with practice and persistence you’ll soon find that the negative tapes disappear and that you can be a consistent happy camper!

Be free. Nothing else is worth it.

Financial Freedom Monty Campbell

What about you? What ways have you overcome setbacks and remained positive? We would love to hear from you. Share your story in the comments section below.

Need more hard-hitting information about achieving financial freedom? Take a look at these posts from the blog archives:

The $7 Million Couch

Are Bad Habits Contagious?

Are You Too Busy To Become Financially Free?


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  • Mike Bisutti

    It may seem like a cheesy thing to do but I write down what I’m grateful for and it has a big impact on my level of positivity. Just putting a few of your blessings into words once a week will keep positive thoughts fresh in your mind.

    • https://www.montycampbell.com/ Monty Campbell

      That’s not cheesy Mike. You’ve got a great system for putting things into perspective. Thanks for contributing!

  • SpeedZ

    GRATITUDE. It is key. Thank the universe for what you have and ask for more. There is no limit in this world we live in.

    • https://www.montycampbell.com/ Monty Campbell

      Isn’t that the truth. I’m so thankful for all the many blessings I’ve received. There’s no room in my life for negativity with all the space being taken-up with gratitude!

  • GS

    When you befriend the mind you are surprised how radically life can change. It becomes much easier to dis-identify with the negative things and see yourself, and life’s situations, with more clarity and objectivity!

    • https://www.montycampbell.com/ Monty Campbell

      That’s right. I like how you phrase that – befriend the mind. It reminds me of a Maxwell Maltz quote: “If you make friends with yourself, you’ll never be alone.”

  • rocket

    Here’s my best tip on staying positive: Pick your favorite half hour of the day. If you could replay only one, 30 minute segment over again, which would it be? Go through your day, hour by hour, and decide on which half an hour was the best part of your day. Visualize those 30 minutes and identify why they were so great. That will help put things into perspective.

    • Melanie H.

      I like this tip rocket! I think it’s about being grateful for what you have. If things are really bad, be grateful for being able to breathe, to get out of bed in the morning, to use your legs.There is always something to be grateful for. Put your focus there and celebrate what you have.

    • https://www.montycampbell.com/ Monty Campbell

      Thank you for sharing such a great tip. So much better to replay a positive event from the day than something negative. The former leaves you ready and open for more good things.

  • kellinex

    Thinking positively may be the best thing in the world for your performance and health. Optimistic thinkers are always trying to find the best in every situation. You can learn to be more positive by focusing on the good stuff and by consistently improving your perspective and outlook.

    • https://www.montycampbell.com/ Monty Campbell

      Thanks for contributing. There’s always a way around whatever is in the way!

  • Todd

    Thank you for writing this Monty. I believe what you are describing above is called brooding (obsessing over negatives). It is always good to frame the “bad” in context with the “good”. I like the way you did that with your matrix. No matter how bad things may seem, there is always another side.

    • https://www.montycampbell.com/ Monty Campbell

      Thanks Todd. Yes, brooding is a good term for it. The mind likes something to focus on. It’s just a matter of giving it something better to focus on than all the negative junk out there.