Does Your Life Get Derailed by the Small Stuff?

Do you take yourself seriously?

I don’t mean ‘are you serious?’

No, I’m talking about who you are; do you take your hopes, dreams, and passions seriously? Are you committed to living a life that chimes with your deep compulsions, or do you find it easily derailed?


Early in the summer I received a lovely email from the author of a fairly big writing blog. He wanted to tell me how much he had enjoyed a guest article I had written for another website and wondered if I would be interested in contributing something along a similar theme for him.

As I’m sure you can imagine it felt pretty good to read that.

It made for a nice change. I was normally the one pitching ideas to other writers to ask if they’d be interested in featuring my work on their blog. I didn’t need a lot of thinking time before agreeing.

I got busy generating ideas that were similar in tone and theme to the original piece to meet his expectation. I drafted, re-drafted, compared with the original, and edited until I was satisfied with it. After a week of tweaking (yes that was tweaking, not twerking), and the mandatory moment of panic, I was ready to hit send on the email.

It was a few days before I got a reply.

I opened it expecting a simple ‘thanks’ and information about when it would be published. Only it didn’t really say that.

…well, it said ‘thanks’… but only after the crushing word, ‘no’.

‘Thank you for submitting this article for consideration, unfortunately I will have to pass on it because it doesn’t have the tone that my readers are used to and these kinds of posts don’t generate as many shares. You have made some great points but I believe it might be better suited to other blogs such as…’ (he provided details of other blogs to send it to).

My heart sank. I felt a mixture of dejection and frustration. It had taken me ages. I had only written it because I had been asked to. It wasn’t even like he was just requesting me to edit certain parts. He had turned down the whole thing.

It was a bit like being invited round to someone’s house and then being told to leave as they shout through the letterbox; “you’re not really my kind of person but the neighbour might let you in, he’s called Dave, number 46. Good luck.”

“If I went by all the rejection I’ve had in my career, I should have given up a long time ago.” – Mike Myers

It hit me harder than I first thought. It shook my confidence and just like that I was consumed by a great wave of self-doubt.

Eternally Derailed by the Eternally Insignificant

How often does this happen to us? We’re going along nicely and then all of a sudden something or someone happens to derail us. We lose confidence and self-belief, and struggle to get back to where we were.

This experience woke me up to how quickly your momentum and motivation can get derailed by a thoughtless action or word. It’s important for us to guard against these kinds of things having such a powerful impact on our bigger picture. How can we turn them around to help us make positive progress and get back on track?

1. Be a Student (of the experience and yourself)

When something happens to derail you, do you seek to learn from it for the future?

We all have the capacity to use our experiences to strengthen our re resilience to deepen our understanding of ourselves, and to learn for next time. Getting derailed once simply means you know that it’s a possibility. Knowing it is a possibility means it wont surprise you if it happens again so you can prepare and be ready for it next time.

Being prepared for something to happen is different from expecting it to happen. Don’t expect it. This kind of expectation is an attitude that can lead to self-destructive cynicism.

2. Get Inspired by the Stories of Others

I don’t know about you but I like reading certain blogs, memoires, and biographies because they enable me to dream. They connect with my own story and give me a sense of what is possible with a bit of perseverance.

These stories contain setbacks, derailments, and failures along the way. People who reject, don’t believe in or understand them and their dreams…And yet they still continue. These are people and stories I want to learn from and be inspired by.

Reminding yourself that everybody gets derailed and distracted on their way to where they want to get makes it somehow easier to recover when it happens.

3. Question Yourself

It’s worth double checking from time to time. Am I really doing what I want to be doing? Do I care about this? Do I want this to work? Is it worth it?

When you are able to say yes to these questions you can rise above the derailment and get back on track.

4. Stop Looking for Your Worth in External Validation

We all seek a certain amount of approval from external validation and other people.

We want to feel like what we do is recognised and appreciated by others. The question is, are you doing what you do IN ORDER to receive approval and external validation? Is that where you feel your sense of worth? Or is there something deeper driving it?

You need to find the deeper, intrinsic drive because if you find your worth in external validation then the moment you get a crushing message rejecting something you’ve done is the moment you will give it up forever.

Do it because you want to, not because you think it will get you rewarded in some way.

5. Have Someone To Share With

One of the most important things to do if you want to get back on track after a derailment is to find someone to talk to. Don’t isolate yourself. It makes things feel a lot worse.

Being able to talk with other people about the rejection my blog post received meant that we could find the funny side (it was a pretty absurd situation), we could get perspective on it, and I was given the words of support and encouragement that I needed to get back on the train.

There are times when this is all that is required.

Know yourself. Take your hopes and dreams seriously. What are they and how do they most commonly get derailed?

Over to You

Question: what do you do to get back on track when you feel like you are derailed by something or someone? Do you find it easy to continue? Please leave your answer in the comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Image Credit: Derail designed by Daniele Catalanotto / ECAL from the Noun Project

  1. While your writing might not have been the ‘right tone’ for them it is certainly welcome here. Whenever I read your blog posts or email it sounds so natural and conversational and never fails to hit on issues that I’m thinking about. I greatly appreciate the applicability and reality it’s such a contrast to other things that are always overstating, overselling or pushing platitudes. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Charlotte! I really appreciate you saying so – I really try to keep the tone authentic and true to me so it’s great that this comes across. I have been quite conscious not to go for the hyped up, extreme approach that other blogs can tend to do (the ones that may get a lot of clicks but perhaps not as useful conversation).

  2. Great blog post. So inspiring. I really enjoy your posts. Being a highly sensitive and emotional introverted type myself, I can certainly relate. Nice to know there are others who understand.

    Oh yes! I know that feeling of being derailed, especially when it comes to my writing. Rejection is the worst. I still don’t like it, but try not to let it defeat me totally. That said, I don’t submit as much as I used to for fear of rejection. When I was more of a newbie writer, I was very starry eyed about it all. Wish I could totally recapture that feeling and not be cynical but must admit I am a little bit. I have to remember why I got into writing in the first place. It’s because I love being creative and the whole creative process which is what’s most important. Being published is a nice perk but it’s not what drives me.

    1. Thanks Cathy, really glad to hear that you relate to this post (and to others) and it’s always lovely to meet a fellow HSIntroverted type! 🙂

      The fear of rejection is probably one that never goes away! How we take those experiences and learn from them is important. I remember the early days when everything is exciting and anything is possible…it’s a shame to lose that, but yes as you say remembering the deeper why, the origins, and your core love for the craft is a great thing to get that feeling back!

      Thanks for sharing your blog too. Love your writing style! 🙂

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