When I was about 12, I saw an ad in a magazine for a poetry contest that sounded fancy and impressive, something like “International Library of Poetry.” I bled poetry at that age, so I crossed my fingers and sent in a poem I’d been slaving over for weeks.
And, lo and behold, the people behind the contest quickly wrote back to tell me my poem had been selected as a winner!
I was speechless with honor. Of the thousands of poets who must have submitted to the contest — no doubt many of them adults much wiser and more skilled than me — my poem had been chosen to be featured in an exclusive, hardcover anthology! And honored on a something-karat-gold plaque!
Of course, I had to pay $50 if I wanted to see my work in print in the anthology, and I had to pay another $100 if I wanted the plaque. Those were the only “prizes.”
Even as a pre-teen, I sensed a scam.
Sadly, not much has changed when it comes to companies trying to take advantage of writers who want a chance at recognition and maybe a little bit of money. Google the term “writing contests,” and you’ll come up with approximately 8 million results. It can be hard for a writer to know where to start looking for competitions, and how to tell if they’re legitimate or not.
So I’ve done the legwork for you.
Here are 31 reputable, well-reviewed, free writing contests for poets, fiction writers, essayists and more.Some legitimate contests do charge a small entry or “reading” fee, but often a fee can be a red flag for a scam, so you may want to stick to free contests — and there are certainly enough of them.
Fiction and nonfiction writing contests
Ready to share your novel or personal essay with the world? Whether you’re a newbie or more established writer, you’re likely eligible for a few of these contests.
1. L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest
Whatever your feelings about L. Ron Hubbard’s work and philosophy, the prizes for this regular contest are nothing to sneeze at. Every three months, winners earn $1,000, $750 and $500, or an additional annual grand prize worth $5,000.
Submissions must be short stories or novelettes (up to 17,000 words) in the genre of science fiction or fantasy, and new and amateur writers are welcome to apply.
Deadlines: Quarterly on January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1.
2. Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize
Awarded to “the most promising and innovative literary nonfiction project by a writer not yet established in the genre,” this prize provides a $12,000 advance and publication by Graywolf Press.
If you live in the U.S. and have published at least one book (in any genre), you’re eligible to submit a current manuscript in progress for consideration. The judges look for winners who push the boundaries of traditional literary nonfiction.
Deadline: Contest is every other year, with the last one running in 2016. The 2018 deadline has not been announced.
3. Drue Heinz Literature Prize
You can win $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press with this prize, awarded for a collection of short fiction.
You may submit an unpublished manuscript of short stories, two or more novellas or a combination of novellas and short stories. Your total word count should be between 150 and 300 typed pages.
Deadline: Annual submission window is May 1 through June 30.
4. Tony Hillerman Prize
Presented by St. Martin’s Press and WORDHARVEST, this prize awards the best first mystery novel set in the Southwest with $10,000 and publication by St. Martin’s Press.
It’s open to professional or non-professional writers who have not yet had a mystery published, and there are specific guidelines for the structure of your story: “Murder or another serious crime or crimes must be at the heart of the story, with emphasis on the solution rather than the details of the crime.”
5. St. Francis College Literary Prize
This biannual prize honors mid-career writers who have recently published their third, fourth or fifth work of fiction. The winner receives $50,000 but must be able to appear at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY to deliver a talk on their work and teach a mini-workshop in fiction to St. Francis students.
Deadline: Biannually; the deadline for work published between June 2015 and May 2017 is May 15, 2017.
6. Young Lions Fiction Award
This $10,000 award recognizes “young authors,” which the rules define as any author aged 35 or younger. Submit any novel or short story published or scheduled to be published in the calendar year. Works must be written for adults; children’s or YA pieces are ineligible.
Deadline: Annually in the fall (most recently in August or September). 2017 deadline not yet announced.
This boutique publishing firm offers a full-fledged publishing deal to its contest winner. Submit a novel of 20,000 words or more in any fiction genre (no fanfic, short stories or poetry) and if it’s selected, Inkitt will provide you with professional editing, a cover design, and 25 percent royalties. They also have a strategy to get you into the Amazon Top 100. (Not too shabby.)
Inkitt runs contests regularly, so be sure to check back often!
Deadline: See individual contest pages.
8.Real Simple’s Life Lessons Essay Contest
Have you ever had a “eureka” moment? If you have, and you can write a compelling personal essay about it in no more than 1,500 words, you may be able to win $3,000 in Real Simple’s annual essay contest.
Deadline: Annually; 2017 deadline has not yet been announced.
9. New Voices Award
Presented by Lee & Low Books, an award-winning children’s book publisher, this award is given for a previously unpublished children’s picture book manuscript (of no more than 1,500 words) written by a writer of color.
The winner receives $1,000 cash and a standard publication contract. You may submit up to two manuscripts.
Deadline: Submissions must be postmarked by September 30 each year.
10. Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence
This contest aims to provide visibility for emerging African American fiction writers and to enable them to focus on their writing by awarding a $10,000 cash prize. Eligible authors should submit a work of fiction, such as a novel or short story collection, published in the calendar year.
Deadline: Annually; 2017 deadline has not yet been announced.
11. PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
Honoring the best work of fiction published by an American author in a single calendar year, this award has been given to the likes of John Updike, Philip Roth and Ann Patchett.
The winner receives $15,000 and an invitation to read at the award ceremony in Washington, DC. Four finalists also each receive a $5,000 award.
Deadline: Annually on October 31 for books published that calendar year.
12. Brooklyn Non-Fiction Prize
Presented by the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival, this annual prize awards $500 cash for “the best Brooklyn-focused non-fiction essay which is set in Brooklyn and is about Brooklyn and/or Brooklyn people/characters.” (So it’s Brooklyn-centric, if you haven’t picked up on that yet.)
Submissions should be four to 10 pages (up to 2,500 words), and five authors will be chosen to read and discuss their submissions at the annual December event.
Deadline: Annually in mid-November.
13. Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards
Fiction and nonfiction writers who have recently published a book that “contributes to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures” are eligible for this award, which offers $10,000 cash as well media and publicity opportunities.
Submissions must be published in the prior year (so books published in 2016 are eligible for the 2017 award).
Deadline: Annual submission window is September 1 through December 31.
14. Marfield Prize (a.k.a. National Award for Arts Writing)
Presented by the Arts Club of Washington, this award seeks to honor nonfiction books that deal with “any artistic discipline (visual, literary, performing, or media arts, as well as cross-disciplinary works).” This may include criticism, art history, memoirs and biographies, and essays.
Deadline: Annually in the last quarter of the year; the 2017 deadline has not yet been announced.
15. W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction
If you’re a war buff, this competition is for you. It awards $5,000 to the best piece of fiction set during a period when the U.S. was at war (war may either be the main plot of the piece or simply provide the setting). Submissions may be adult or YA novels.
Deadline: Annually on December 1.
16. Friends of American Writers Chicago Awards
FAW presents two annual awards: an Adult Literature Award for literary fiction or nonfiction, and a Juvenile Literature Award for a children’s/YA book.
Authors must reside in the state of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota or Wisconsin — or they must set their book in one of those locations. Prize amounts vary from year to year but are typically between $500 and $2,000.
Deadline: Annually at the end of the year; 2017 deadline has not yet been announced.
17. Hektoen Grand Prix Essay Contest
Hektoen International, an online journal dedicated to medical humanities, offers two prizes annually for essays of no more than 1,600 words in two categories.
The Grand Prize of $1,200 is given for an essay suited for their Famous Hospitals section, while a Silver Prize of $1,000 is given to the best essay suited for the sections of Art Flashes, Literary Vignettes, Moments in History or Physicians of Note.
Deadline: Annually; 2017 has passed and 2018 deadline is not yet announced.
18. Nelson Algren Short Story Award
Presented by the Chicago Tribune, this award presents $3,500 to one grand prize winner, $1,000 to four finalists and $500 to five runners-up for a short fiction story of less than 8,000 words.
You may submit up to two short stories, but note that your name must not appear anywhere on your submission as the process is anonymous.
Deadline: Annually; 2017 has passed and 2018 deadline is not yet announced.
19. Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition
Writers 18 and older who have never had a novel published (in any genre) are eligible for this prize, awarded for an original book-length manuscript where “murder or another serious crime or crimes is at the heart of the story.” The winner receives a publication contract with Minotaur Books and an advance of $10,000 against future royalties.
Deadline: Annually in the last quarter of the year. The deadline for 2017 awards has passed; the deadline for 2018 awards has not yet been announced.
20. FutureScapes Writing Contest
Want to change the world? Then listen up.
FutureScapes is looking for concrete, substantive pieces that “can provide a roadmap for cities, states, and nations to follow.” If you just want to write the next Hunger Games, this isn’t the contest for you, but if you’re inspired by politics and civic issues, you’ve found the right place. (Case in point: the inaugural theme, “Empowerment Cities,” features a quote from Alexis de Tocqueville.) First place wins $2,000; second place $1,000; and four runners-up will get $500 each. Oh, and did we mention publication in an anthology that will be “distributed to mayors, governors and members of the U.S. Congress”?
Deadline: Annually; deadline for 2017 is TBD.
21. Stowe Prize
This biennial prize of $10,000 honors an American author whose work has had an impact on a critical social justice issue (as did Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin).
In addition to submitting a copy of your book or written work, you must also complete a 250-word statement that describes the tangible impact your piece has made in the world and outlining any social justice work you perform outside of your writing.
Deadline: Biennially in odd-numbered years. The deadline for 2017 awards has passed, and the deadline for 2019 have not yet been announced.
22. The Diana Woods Memorial Award in Creative Non-Fiction
Creative nonfiction essays of no more than 5,000 words on any subject, are eligible for consideration for this award, whose winner receives $250 and publication in Lunch Ticket, the literary and art journal produced by the MFA community of Antioch University Los Angeles.
Works must not have been published elsewhere. Award winners are required to submit a 100-word biography, recent photo and a short note thanking the Woods family for their generosity and support.
Deadlines: Biannual reading periods are the month of February for the Summer/Fall issue and the month of August for the Winter/Spring issue.
23. Words & Brushes
This contest seeks to foster collaborations between artists and writers. Select a piece of artwork from the gallery provided and submit a short story inspired by it and you could win $350 — plus a spot in a future art book showcasing these collaborations. Short stories should be between 2,000 – 5,000 words.
Deadline: Annually; 2017 has passed and 2018 deadline is not yet announced.
24. Write the World
For young writers ages 13-18, this cool contest also serves as a mini writer’s camp. Recognizing that “a first draft is never perfect,” submissions actually receive peer review by authors, writing teachers and other experts and writers are given the chance to revise their pieces based on this feedback before submitting them for final prize consideration. There’s a $100 prize for the winner and $50 for the runner-up (plus $50 for the best peer-reviewer). All three are featured on Write the World’s blog alongside comments from a guest judge. And since each month’s prompt is from a different genre, developing writers get a chance to test out different styles.
Stuck with writer’s block and looking for a way to jumpstart your escape? Prose offers weekly challenges meant to spark your creativity; many are just for fun, but look for the weekly numbered challenges posted by Prose (rather than community members or sponsors) for a chance to win money.
Prizes are typically between $100 – $200 and word counts are low — some as low as under 150, some as high as 500, but all say “quality beats quantity.” So even if all you get from the prompt is a chance to flex your brain, it’s not a bad deal.
Curious about opportunities for poets? Your stanzas — rhyming or not — could be worth a fair amount of money in these competitions.
26. Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award
Open to African American poets, previously published or not, this award provides a $500 prize and publication by Boardside Lotus Press for the best book-length collection of poems (approximately 60 to 90 pages).
Deadline: Annually on March 1.
27. James Laughlin Award
If you’re already a published poet, this is the award for you; it’s given for a second book of poetry due to come out in the forthcoming year. The winner receives $5,000 and an all-expenses-paid week-long residency. In addition, copies of her book are distributed to the 1,000 members of the Academy of American Poets.
Deadline: Annual submission window is January 1 through May 15.
28. African Poetry Book Fund Prizes
The APBF awards three prizes annually for African Poetry. The Glenna Luschei Prize for Afican Poetry gives $5,000 for a book of original African poetry published in the prior year.
The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets gives $1,000 and a publication contract for an unpublished book-length collection of poetry by an African author.
The Brunel University African Poetry Prize is a new prize that grants £3,000 to a poet who was born in Africa, is a national of an African country or has African parents, who has not yet had a full-length book of poetry published. (U.S. citizens qualify.) To submit, you’ll need 10 poems.
Deadlines: See individual prize pages.
29. Tufts Poetry Awards
Claremont Graduate University presents two awards each year to poets they deem to be “outstanding.” The Kate Tufts Poetry Award grants $10,000 for a published first book of poetry that shows promise.
The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award grants a mammoth $100,000 for a published book of poetry by an an established or mid-career poet.
Deadline: Books published between July of the previous year and June 30 of the current year are eligible for the following year’s prize (i.e. award for 2017 was for works publishing between between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016). Deadline for 2018 awards has not yet been announced.
Writing contests with multiple categories
Some contests accept submissions in multiple categories, so you could submit a novella as well as a poem or other work.
30. Binghamton University Book Awards
Sponsored by the Binghamton Center for Writers — State University of New York, this competition offers a $1,000 prize for work published in the previous year in two separate categories. The John Gardner Fiction Book Award goes to the best novel or collection of fiction, while the Milt Kessler Poetry Book award goes to the best book of poems.
Deadline: Annually on March 1 for books published the previous year.
31. Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition
(Editor’s note: We were so excited to include this competition that we overlooked its entry fees. We’ll leave it in the post for those interested in submitting their work, but please note that this contest is not free.)
One of the longest-running writing competitions — it’s now in its 83rd year — this contest spotlights up and coming writers in a number of categories, including Memoirs/Personal Essay, Magazine Feature Article and Genre Short story.
The Grand Prize winner gets $5,000, a feature in Writer’s Digest magazine, a paid trip to a writing conference and more. Runners-up earn prizes in first through tenth places.
Deadline: Annually; May 5, 2017.
Where to find more legitimate, free writing contests
Looking for more opportunities to submit your work to writing contests? Here are a few great sites to keep an eye on.
A number of the contests found on our list came highly recommended by this site, which compiles some of the best free literary contests out there. You can sort contests by recommendation level (Highly Recommended, Recommended or Neutral), view plenty of info on requirements and even see which contests are better for beginners, intermediate writers and pros.
They also offer a handful of contests themselves, including the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest (which sounds delightful).
Poets & Writers
Another fantastic source for legitimate writing contests I consulted when compiling this list, Poets & Writers vets competitions, contests, awards and grants to make sure they’re following legitimate practises and policies. It’s worth checking out regularly as it features both annual and one-time contests.
Cathy’s Comps and Calls
Writer, poet and editor Cathy Bryant sources legitimate, free-to-enter writing contests and calls for submission. She releases a new list of contests and calls each month, so check back monthly for new opportunities.
Are you planning to enter any writing contests this year? Which ones?
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!
This post originally ran in February 2016. We updated it in March 2017.
Filed Under: Craft
Move from irregular client work and crappy pay to being a freelance leader in your field. Paul Jarvis, who’s been freelancing for 16+ years, shares his advice on pricing, positioning and more.
Get It Now
A few weeks ago, one of my students posted this in my Facebook mastermind group (emphasis mine):
Let me start by saying that I applaud this woman for having the courage to step up, share her story, and ask for help so she can overcome this and move forward again. It’s actually pretty damn hard to admit when you’re not in a good place professionally and to then ask for help.
I wrote an initial response with my thoughts (below), but I wound up thinking more and more about this topic and it got me thinking about some of my own struggles.
I thought about where I was just a few short years ago, when I was part of a business that completely imploded–and that was after putting in 60- to 80-hour workweeks.
Ultimately, I was left pretty much broke and with no clue what I was going to do, wondering where on earth I was going to go from there. How was I going to support myself, let alone my family? But I got through it–and I came out stronger and happier than ever. Why?
I also thought about something that I went through recently, when life punched me in the mouth. A few hours before I was supposed to speak to a room full of entrepreneurs, I learned that my older brother Dan had passed away. I was completely and totally devastated, yet I still gave that talk. Why?
Then I thought about all of the amazing people I’ve met in my life who have been through unbelievably difficult circumstances and not only made it through them but found a way to turn them into something positive.
Finally, I thought of the flip side–those times when I was met with defeat and did nothing. I cowered. I crumbled. I didn’t learn from it–and the many people I know that have done the same.
Why–and what was the difference?
The Different Types Of Obstacles We Face
Although setbacks, roadblocks, and defeats are all obstacles standing between where you are now and where you want to be, each one represents a different level of challenge. Here’s how I’d break that down.
1. Setbacks are usually relatively minor–“hiccups,” really, in that they don’t actually stop you. They’re more like speed bumps–they simply slow you down. Think of them as a problem that makes your progress harder or success less likely.
One example of a setback would be if you had a project slated to start on Monday but for whatever reason, it couldn’t start until Tuesday. It’s not a huge deal, but it does force you to scramble a bit as you try to make the necessary schedule changes so everyone and everything is in place for the new time.
2. Roadblocks are obstacles that do a little bit more than just slow you down. They’re more like tar paper. They actually threaten to make you stuck. They’re something that impedes your progress or prevents you from accomplishing something.
Maybe you planned to have a project completed by Friday, but something came up and you couldn’t finish it until Monday, completely missing your deadline and making your boss or client super mad at you–possibly to the point where you’re not sure if you can repair the damage.
And even if you’re able to keep your job or retain your client, you’ll probably feel some lasting effects from it. If it’s a client, maybe you’ll no longer be the first one they go to for bids on high-paying projects. If it’s a boss, perhaps you’ll find that you’re given less important work because you “can’t be trusted.”
Again, you can bounce back from these types of issues, but it’s going to take some time and a lot of effort.
3. Defeats are the mothers of all setbacks and roadblocks, the life-changers that can force you to do a complete 180 and wonder, “What the heck am I going to do now?”
Examples include not getting that promotion you thought you were going to get (or was promised), or being let go. These aren’t setbacks’ tiny little jabs designed to let you know they’re in the boxing ring with you, or even roadblocks’ punches that knock you down but make you want to get up and try even harder. These are TKOs–total knockouts. Not only are you on your back, but you’re down for the count.
The good news is, no matter which one you face–a setback, roadblock, or defeat–you don’t have to raise your hand and surrender. Think about how you typically respond to these different types of obstacles: What’s your normal reaction?
The “Normal” Responses To Obstacles
When face to face with a career-related obstacle, some people cast blame. They point to all the reasons or circumstances that “put” them where they are.
If this is you, you might tell yourself (and probably everyone else) how the reason you got in trouble is because “My boss is a real jerk!” or that you wouldn’t have lost that promotion “if only my cat hadn’t climbed that tree, making me late for work–again.”
Another normal response to a setback, roadblock, or defeat is anger, like you’ve just been unjustly convicted of a crime you didn’t commit. You might feel a little frustrated or sad because you let yourself (and your employer or client) down, or because you’re not quite where you wanted to be at this point in your life. And depending on the size of the consequence you face, you might also be a little (or a lot) scared about what lies ahead.
While all of these responses are “normal,” if this is how you react, you are actually hurting yourself.
The Problem With These Responses
While it’s understandable to feel frustrated, sad, angry, and scared when dealing with a career-related obstacle, these types of “normal” responses present an issue–a huge one, in fact.
None of these negative reactions, feelings, or responses will help you get wherever it is you want to go. Worse yet, they can even stop you dead in your tracks.
A 2010 University of Miami study found that people in depressed states (which is where we tend to be when facing a career-related obstacle, no matter how big or small) who aren’t able to get over the obstacles in their lives were “more likely to ruminate on their troubles.” They become caught up in their despair like dust in a tornado, going around and around and around–using lots of energy but not really getting anywhere.
Is this how you feel? Like you’re just spinning in circles and unsure how to get out of the turmoil so you can start to move forward again? If so, here’s something important to remember . . .
Setbacks Happen To Everyone—Even Really Successful People
Every successful person, the ones we tend to look to for inspiration in our own lives, has faced their fair share of setbacks before, during, and after achieving something great.
Steve Jobs’s story is well-known. He cofounded Apple (which was Macintosh at the time) at the age of 21, becoming a millionaire within two short years. A few years after that, after having a disagreement with the company’s cofounder, the board decided to remove him from his position at Apple, essentially firing him from the company he helped create.
This led to a midlife crisis in which Jobs thought of all his other career options, which led him to create two more successful companies (NeXT and Pixar) before returning to Apple, which was floundering after he left. So even though he once found himself without a job, he was able to turn things around and lead Apple to its position as a leading global tech firm.
Another example is Mark Cuban, who worked at a bank when he was 22 and decided that he wanted to show his entrepreneurial side by sending “notes” to the CEO about how he could save the bank money, even taking it upon himself to write a company newsletter. Although he thought he was doing a good thing, Cuban’s boss didn’t quite feel the same, eventually calling him into his office asking him not-so-nicely who he thought he was.
Cuban ultimately left that job and moved in with friends, where he slept on the floor while working as a bartender. Sometime after that, he was hired by a PC software company, earning a good salary and commission–until he got fired.
But Cuban didn’t let that stop him, and now he owns Landmark Theatres, Magnolia Pictures, the Dallas Mavericks, and many other companies he’s partnered with through Shark Tank. All in all, his net worth is now over $3 billion.
The point is that you, too, can overcome whatever obstacles are in your way. And you can even find yourself in a better place. All you have to do is develop the right strategies. But first, you need to realize something very important . . .
There Are No “Straight Lines”
In Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen argues that dealing with and overcoming adversity isn’t a linear progression. As he puts it, “no one gets better in a straight line.” Overcoming your struggles is an up-and-down battle–lots of ups and downs, in fact.
But you need both the peaks and the valleys in order to keep moving forward. The ups remind you where you want to go, and the downs push you to get there.
If you look closely at Dr. Amen’s image, you’ll notice one very important thing: Over time, the ups continue to get higher and the lows aren’t quite as low. In other words, as long as you keep moving forward, overcoming the obstacles in your way, you’ll improve in the long run.
Now, you might be saying, “That’s wonderful Chris, but exactly how am I supposed to get over what’s happened to me?” As is true anytime you want to succeed, you need to have a plan. This plan must include strategies–proven, effective strategies–so you’re actually getting somewhere.
Here are five actionable things you can do right now to help you overcome your setbacks, roadblocks, and defeats–so you emerge victorious on the other side.
1. Give Yourself Time
One of the very first things you want to do is give yourself time to process what happened. Let your mind absorb what’s happened, and fully realize where you are.
How much time should you take? Lifehacker’s Patrick Allan suggests that if it’s something bigger, you should “give yourself a full 24 hours to let it out.” Whatever amount of time you choose though, Allan says to just make sure “you stick to it.”
Come to terms with what has happened, and then it’s time to figure out how to proceed from there. But whatever you do . . .
2. Don’t Panic
In The Obstacle Is the Way, Ryan Holiday shares how the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, John Glenn, spent almost an entire day in space making sure his heart rate never went over 100 beats per minute. As Holiday writes, “That’s a man not simply sitting at the controls but in control of his emotions.”
This is the same type of control you want to have when you’re faced with a setback.
Yes, give yourself time to adjust, but don’t panic either, as that’s not going to help the situation at all. In fact, it would likely hurt it more than anything because then you just might do something you’ll regret.
3. Make Peace With Your Failures
Body Mind Mastery author Dan Millman says that “fear of failure generates a vicious cycle that creates what is most feared.” Thus, he suggests that you “make peace with failure” so it doesn’t keep you from reaching your potential.
Put another way: Realize that the situation is what it is, accept it, and move on.
Millman uses the example of babies learning to walk to highlight how powerful this concept can be. Can you imagine what our world would look like if, as infants, we didn’t learn to accept our repeated failures–our constant falling down–and get back up anyway?
More importantly, is that how you want to live the rest of your life? Not doing all the things you’re fully capable of doing because you simply gave up?
Of course not. While you can’t change what’s been done, you can choose to deal with it, and you’ll move forward when you do.
4. Cut Yourself Some Slack (But Don’t Let Go Of The Rope)
In a particularly vulnerable and powerful blog post, Tim Ferriss shared that sometimes he gets down and does things like “hit snooze for one-three hours” or contemplates “giving everything away and moving to Montreal, Seville, or Iceland.”
And yet, even though he has struggles, not wanting to get out of bed and considering moving away and starting over, Ferriss doesn’t give up. He still takes some actions that help him power through his low points so these temporary setbacks, or lulls in productivity, don’t prevent him from achieving his goals.
He does little things like meditating twice a day and becoming closer to family. And he does bigger things like raising $100,000 for charity and adding 20 pounds of muscle mass. Ferriss says he basically cuts himself some slack but still pushes forward so that, in the end, he winds up ahead.
5. Regain Your Control
Dr. Greg Winch, psychologist and author of The Squeaky Wheel, says that regaining as much control over your situation as possible is necessary to help you “avoid feeling helpless and hopeless.”
This means considering the actions you can take to help you overcome whatever obstacle is in your way. For example, if you’ve just been called into your boss’s office for submitting a “subpar project,” ask yourself what you can do to keep this from happening in the future. Could you ask for an extension so you can put more time into your work and make it higher quality? What about requesting more tools to help you do your job effectively? Think about the things you can do that are within your control, and you’ll feel less out of control about the situation at hand.
Wharton professor and best-selling author Adam Grant shares that, in life, failure comes in two ways: your actions and your inactions. “When people reflect on their biggest regrets,” Grant says, “they wish they could redo the inactions, not the actions.”
Thus, taking these five actions can hopefully lead you to feel less regret in the long run. When life knocks you down, get back up. And when it knocks you down again, get back up again. That’s how I’ve learned to overcome setbacks, defeats, and roadblocks.
An expanded version of this article originally appeared on Buffer. It is adapted and reprinted with permission.