Stephany C. Coakley PhD., LPC

Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC)

(866) 277-3401

Setback: Stepping stone or Stumbling block?

I have learned that there are very few guarantees in life but I can guarantee that at some point you will experience a setback, a challenging situation or an outright failure.
When a setback occurs – in your career, personal life, health or in another realm – one of the predictors of future success is your perception. The quote “the problem is how you see the problem” speaks to the power of perception – and whether you’ll move forward, stay still or go backwards.
A setback can make you feel powerless, unable to influence the outcome of the situation in any way. Have you ever lost your job? Unemployment can cause you to feel powerless. However perceiving that you have no control over the situation is detrimental, and can lead to feelings of helplessness and despair. These emotions often cause us to quit because the setback appears to be insurmountable.
Remember this: YOU always have control. You control how you think, what you do and what you say. The great Maya Angelou said “If you can’t change the situation, change how you think about the situation”. Take control by using the time away from the workforce to accomplish something you value…learn a new language…spend time with your kids…start a business! Setbacks can sometimes be the setup for something greater.
Sometimes when you experience a setback it feels as though everything and everyone is against you…especially if you have had a string of setbacks. This can cause us to adopt the attitude that if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. Murphy’s Law becomes the order of the day.
Because of this perception, there is a tendency to devote way too much energy and attention to the negative, and to dwell on what went wrong. This thinking is very unproductive. Why? Because when you think this way, it changes your mood, lowers your energy, and limits your ability to problem- solve, so you can’t be productive!
In these moments, when you realize that you’re paying too much attention to the setback, try practicing gratitude. Practicing gratitude is simple. It requires that you identify 3 – 5 things that you are thankful for daily. Keep this in mind: every day may not be good, but there is good in every day. When you practice gratitude, your mood and energy improve and you set the conditions for developing a strategy to move forward.
Lastly, when you experience a setback, remember what’s really important. Connect to your purpose! Why was it so important to go for the dream job? The satisfying relationship? Good health? Connecting your purpose to the goal can re-ignite your desire to move forward after the setback.
Remember, as much as we don’t like them and how they make us feel, setbacks are inevitable. Failure is necessary for success! Ask any successful person you know: they all have a collection of setbacks and a mountain of no’s in their past. Failure is an opportunity to learn something about yourself…something that you need to learn in order to be successful in the future.
Next time you experience a setback remember that you have control, you have much to be grateful for, and your purpose will help you to continue to strive. Resist the urge to allow the setback to prevent you from achieving your goals. Choose to view setbacks as stepping stones, and not as stumbling blocks, to the outcomes that you desire.