There a few things that we all have in common, and one of them is we all feel defeat at some point. Maybe you feel defeated by your job, relationship, or finances. Hey, most of us (all of us?) have tasted these varieties of defeat too.

When one feels like throwing in the proverbial towel, remember a scene in the movie Batman Begins. The scene plays out when a young boy (Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. ‘Batman’) falls into a large, dug-out underground pit. His father rappels his way down and rescues the boy.

When his father rhetorically asks, “Why do we fall, Bruce?”, “So that we can learn to pick ourselves back up.” (This scene would also be played out with Wayne and his butler, Alfred – and others.)

When we feel defeat, two options are available to us: (1) sulk and quit, or (2) feel the pain for a bit and pick ourselves back up.

“My past has not defined me, destroyed me, deterred me, or defeated me; it has only strengthened me.” ­– Steve Maraboli

Here are six ways we can learn to pick ourselves back up when feeling defeated


1. Move it when you feel defeated

What do you gain from remaining idle when feeling defeated? Chances are nothing – aside from rehashing negative thoughts again and again. What happens when you move your body? These thoughts dissipate because you’re doing something else.

With one exception (discussed later), remaining still is a poor choice when overcome with defeat.

There are times to move and times to stay idle. Feeling defeated is a time to move.

2. Breathe

Breathing is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do before we die. Breath is essential to life, yet many don’t do it right. We tend to “chest-breathe” when we really need to “stomach-breathe.”

In other words, we need to fill our bellies with fresh oxygen – something called diaphragmic breathing.

When we are stressed or upset, we naturally tend to take shallow, quick breaths. On the other hand, Slow, deep breaths instantly calm us mentally and physically.

3. Get outside when you feel defeated

Many of us work in stuffy, crowded, noisy offices. We’re in this environment for eight hours, even more.

Why does stepping outside instantly improve our mood? There are a couple of reasons. First, sunlight triggers the release of the brain chemical serotonin. Serotonin is our brain’s “happy chemical.” Second, getting outside requires us to (you guessed it!) move.

In a study published in Environmental Science and Technology, short exercises (5 minutes minimum) in outdoor conditions “improved both self-esteem and mood.”

4. Get creative

Maybe you feel that life’s purpose is hidden; you’re just “tired of it all.” Discontentment and boredom are two emotions quickly relinquished from a bit of creativity.

Nick Offerman, the actor known for his role in the sitcom Parks and Recreation, is also a gifted woodworker. Here’s his advice: “(Put) your phone down and (do) something with your hands so that, at the end … you have a tangible result from your time. (You’re) still distracting yourself, by knitting or cooking or playing music, but you’ve created something.”

5. Look at something awe-inspiring

We all get into these ruts when things feel “old.” We drive the same route to the same job, live in the same house, and do the same tired things.

One of the beautiful things about the internet that’s “hidden” from many is the universe (literally) being at our fingertips. How many of you know that NASA’s website contains a “Galleries” section? You can look at (and download) high-resolution images of everything imaginable. A couple you might look up: the northern lights from space and photos of the first moonwalk.

The National Geographic and Discovery pages are two other fantastic sites. See NG’s “Animal” or “Science” photos (found within the Topics menu.) Incredible!


6. Remember the lesson from when you felt defeated

Please forgive the duplication, but this quote from Steve Marboli is just that good:

“My past has not defined me, destroyed me, deterred me, or defeated me; it has only strengthened me.”

Whether you realize it or not, every difficult situation has a significant learning opportunity. Here are just a few examples:

  • Doing tedious work: building your willpower.
  • Feeling lonesome: becoming comfortable with solitude.
  • Disliking someone for a good reason: separating real friends from the fake.
  • Feeling stuck: forcing us to find new opportunities.
  • Having “uncomfortable” feelings: sharpening your gut instincts.

Finding opportunities in difficult times can test our patience (another teaching moment!) But, if we hone this precious skill, we can view every problem as an obstacle – as a chance to strengthen our character.

Let’s get comfortable with being uncomfortable.