how to deal with setbacks

How to deal with setbacks

There are many events in life that come along, some good, others bad. But it’s the bad situations, the ones that create the most challenge, that we naturally struggle with. Learning how to deal with setbacks is therefore vitally important; those unexpected delays in our plans or the unplanned event which veers us off our planned trajectory. Our lives can very quickly lose their direction. We can start to drift, or just accept blindly what happens to us without any fight. There are, therefore, many important lessons to be learned from setbacks, both about how to deal with them when they happen, but also about their purpose in our lives.

Recently I’ve gone through a personal setback. For many years I’ve had physical issues with my right knee and subsequently my whole leg. I’ve seen many physiotherapists who have tried to sort it out and guide me through the required exercises, but it has steadily got worse. This is partly due to my not really grasping the ramifications of how severe it could become if not dealt with properly. And also, I’ve recently come to learn, through incomplete advice from previous physios. As a result, I’m now trying to un-learn bad habits, deal with chronic pain, and get back into a healthy mindset, and body.

But this setback I mentioned. Well over the summer I got ill. I’ve not been this ill in many years and I found myself in bed for a week and slowly recovering for another. I had terrible stomach flu and was incapable of eating or moving except to the loo. John, my lovely hubby, looked after me so well and I’m absolutely fine now. But all the hard work I’d been putting in with my exercises and strengthening my leg were gone. I felt like I was back at square one. The pain was worse. I just felt so weak, mentally and physically. And it’s honestly taken me a little while to get back on track. But I’m steadily getting there. Bit by bit.

So how do we deal with setbacks?

You tend to find that the most successful people are good at dealing with setbacks. They’ve learned how to take on life’s challenges and use them to project themselves further along their course, rather than trip them up and stop them in their tracks. It’s really all down to learned behaviours; are we defeatists, or are we optimists? Do we strive forwards towards our goals, or do we give in at every setback?

If there is one thing that I’ve come to realise over the last year is that we choose our own destiny. Many people think that life just happens to us and we just roll with the punches and take things as they happen. Other people however have a more focused approach to life. They strive for certain goals regardless of how many times they are knocked down. They know what they want and they do whatever it takes to get there. Honestly, I’d probably say I fell into the roll with the punches category. But I’m trying to change my mindset and become more focused on what I really want and how I’m going to get there.

Some tips on how to deal with setbacks

There are many ways to deal with setbacks in our lives, some preemptive, and others remedial. Trying to get the preemptive ones in place will encourage you into a healthier mindset. They will certainly be something I aim to work on myself.

how to deal with setbacks.

Expect them

No one, not one single person, goes through life without experiencing a setback of some kind. Whether it’s your health, a relationship, in business, or financial, we will all experience them. That doesn’t mean we go through life with a miserable outlook. No. It just means that when we push ourselves and when we strive forwards, we will meet resistance at some point. They are times of refinement, they challenge our resolve and give us an opportunity to grow.

Acknowledge it

Just as you must expect setbacks, you must also acknowledge them when they occur. The acceptance of what is allows you to make a way forward and out of your setback. Burying your head in the sand will not make it go away, nor will it make it any better. Taking ownership of what is happening in your life allows you to process what is going on, create a plan, and move forwards. No, you didn’t want or plan it, but it is happening. Grow from it, be better and allow the experience to improve you, not define you.

Keep perspective

Often, when we’re experiencing a setback, we can lose sight of the bigger picture. Our world closes in around us and all we can see is what is happening to us right now. We start to apportion blame, often in the wrong direction and dig ourselves a deep wallowing pit of despair. This is when we need to catch ourselves before the rapid decline into ‘woe is me’ territory. While it is important to assess how we came to be where we are, we must ensure that we look at the whole picture. A lot of the time we completely blame ourselves or others for our setback; either we cannot take responsibility for our part, or we pile it all upon someone else. Often, however, there are other contributing factors at play that have nothing to do with you or someone else specifically. Sometimes bad things just come our way and we must endeavour to grow through them. We cannot change what has already happened. But we can choose how we respond.

It takes time

Impatience is a quality that, I’m sure you’ll agree, many of us have on some level. Often, however, it’s these times of stress and setback that can rile up the ugly head of impatience and we put unnecessary pressure upon ourselves to be somewhere else. Change takes time. Changing direction in life is difficult. We must therefore be kind to ourselves and not rush into big decisions or react impatiently to where we think we ought to be. Allow yourself time to deal with your setback. Don’t wallow or get stuck where you encountered your setback. Rather assess what’s happening and take time to process it and heal through it. Often setbacks resolve themselves through time, others need more input from us, but impatience won’t get you there any faster.

Think small

Sometimes we can just feel stuck. Feeling overwhelmed by a setback and our new situation can stop us from being able to create a new path and move on. This is when we need to think more in the short term and create small steps that we can follow to help us get back on track. What can I do now to make the situation better? What could I do tomorrow or next week? When we only see the end goal and our distance from it we can very easily become disheartened and give up. It may feel easier to do nothing at the time, but eventually, this will catch up with you and you’ll still have the same problem to deal with, only harder. Small, manageable steps will get you there and you’ll grow with each one.

Be ready to grow

I’ve said this in numerous ways above; that through the process of how to deal with setbacks we will grow and develop. But more than this, we must also be ready to educate ourselves on purpose. When we are coming out of a setback, or in order to deal with it specifically, we must be ready to take on new knowledge. Many successful people don’t know everything about their business or dreams before they begin. They learn and absorb all they can about their passion as they go. If we are ready and willing to learn what we don’t yet know we will discover new pathways open up to us and our end goal isn’t so far off.

Speak kindness

The person we are the hardest on most of the time is ourselves. This is especially true when things don’t go right or how we planned or expected. Wherever you are, and however you got there, speak kindly to yourself. Disappointment is bitter and hurts. Self-doubt kills ambition and stalls progress. When you start to feel these things during a setback, don’t let them take hold. Remind yourself of all the hard work you’ve done already. Think about all your successes and the great experiences you’ve had up to this point. You’ll have more of those if you choose to focus on growth, progress, self-love, and making lemonade out of those lemons.

Rely on something deeper

When your setback really knocks you for six and you’re left reeling we can feel totally at sea and disconnected. We can feel completely helpless and think we lack the mental, physical or emotional strength to recover. This is when many people rely on something deeper to see them through. Faith can be the great sustainer through the most trying of times in our lives. The belief in something or someone bigger than ourselves can be what sustains and strengthens us, knowing that no matter how terrible things may be, we will get through it. You are unique and have so much to offer with your specific gift set, so draw from that deep well of faith knowing that you have so much to give in a way that only you can. John’s teaching this week covers this topic and provides further insight with his teaching

Remember that it is through the fire that you are forged. Trials are a part of life, but if we embrace the lessons we will become stronger and better than we ever thought possible.

Want to go even deeper? Then you can with our brand new course entitled “How to face challenges head-on.” Available at

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