To bounce back after a setback, challenge unhelpful mental loops that reinforce problems rather than illuminate potential solutions. To see how your way of thinking can affect your recovery from a layoff, consider the radically different experiences of two 50-year-old biotech executives who I coached — let’s call them Owen and Bob.

Owen took the news of his layoff hard. While the layoff had been the result of a merger and not based on his performance, Owen continued to blame himself, wondering, “Why didn’t I see the writing on the wall?” He convinced himself that his credentials and age must be to blame, thinking to himself, “I must not be cut out for science, and I’ll never get another job since I’m over 50 now.” Instead of taking the time to think through what he might do next, Owen spent most of his time chastising himself and scanning random job postings, growing more and more frustrated. When he came to see me a few months after the layoff had occurred, he could barely get out of bed in the morning. He didn’t challenge the inner critic that berated him for losing his job while some of his colleagues had kept theirs, and as a result, spiraled into a depression.

Bob also experienced a layoff but took a completely different approach. After the initial shock of the news sunk in, he set his sights on new possibilities. He updated his resume and LinkedIn profile to reflect the fact that he was looking for work and then began to strategically reach out to his network. While doubts occasionally crept in and he was nervous about being temporarily unemployed, he continuously reminded himself: “I have marketable skills, and this change is an opportunity to investigate career options that I might otherwise never have had the chance to explore.” In a matter of weeks, Bob had identified several potential new job options, and more than 30 people in his network had agreed to play a role in facilitating his search.

The key difference between Owen’s and Bob’s approaches wasn’t that one felt better about the layoff than the other — both were equally disappointed initially about losing their job. But unlike Owen, Bob focused on what he could control about the situation, refusing to let his inner critic rent space in his head.