What To Do When You Encounter A Setback: Turn it into a success
Clodagh O'Mahony·October 20, 2021
One moment you were flying towards your goals, ticking each task off your to-do list, and making amazing progress, and then suddenly, without warning, you’re hit with a obstacle. What felt easy, joyful and aligned, now feels difficult, challenging and draining. Frustration, doubt, disappointment and fear have began to creep in and now you’re pretty certain this might be a sign to throw in the towel.
A setback has occurred, but panic not, this obstacle isn’t here to steer you off course, and it certainly isn’t a sign for you to give up on your goals. Rather, it’s an opportunity for self-growth and to achieve more than you ever thought possible – and we know just how to get you back on course.
But before we begin, we want to introduce you to a concept that will change the way you think about challenges and failure…
Failing forward means that setbacks are merely stepping stones on your path to success. It’s the process of finding the lesson in every obstacle and adjusting your course as necessary.
When you fail forward you are destined to reach your goals, so long as you pick yourself up and try again with your newly gained insight and knowledge.
So, with that in mind, are you ready to turn setbacks into stepping stones? Let us show you how...
How To Turn Setbacks Into Successes
Review your progress
It’s what our weekly reflection pages in The Head Plan Productivity & Wellness Journal are for. Look back through the pages of your journal and see just how far you’ve come. We’ll bet you’ve made stacks of progress, even if you don’t yet see it.
If it helps, make a list of your biggest achievements so far. This practice not only helps you recognise just how much you’ve achieved, it builds your belief and reminds you that you can and will achieve again.
While you’re at it, think about all the times you’ve experienced a setback in the past. Chances are you came back stronger, braver, and learned something along the way. Guess what? You’ve done it once and you’ll do it again. You’ve got this.
Change your self talk
Let us ask you this: does your inner critic hit the play button when things don’t go exactly as planned? Do you give yourself a terrible time when your best-laid plans don’t pan out perfectly? It’s time to turn things around with a whole lot of kindness and self-compassion.
When you notice negative self-talk, you can choose to change it. Try replacing phrases like “I’m so bad at this” or “I’m failing” with more empowering ones like “I’m new at this” and “I’m learning”.
The words we speak are like self-fulfilling prophecies. What you say about yourself and the world becomes your reality, so be careful about what you speak into existence.
Build your self-belief
Your belief in yourself has taken a knock. You can help rebuild your self-belief by writing empowering statements using The Head Plan Mirror Markers about yourself on your mirror, like “I am determined”, “I am talented” and “I am constantly learning and improving”. Let those phrases seep into your subconscious. Repeated often enough, these phrases are scientifically proven to rewire your beliefs and change the way you feel about yourself for the better.
Turn disappointment into motivation
Did you know that as humans we’re actually hard-wired to avoid pain more than we are to seek pleasure? That’s why setbacks can actually be a huge motivator. It might not feel like it, but hitting a hurdle can actually reignite that fire in your belly.
If you’re feeling more disempowered than motivated, write out a list of all the reasons you want to achieve your goal. Now close your eyes and imagine achieving them. Really let your imagination run wild. Can you feel your energy shift?
Go back to the drawing board
Often setbacks are a prompt for us to look inward. They can also be an opportunity for some self-reflection. Consider using some gentle prompts like:
How could I approach this problem differently?
Has self-doubt or fear stopped me from succeeding in this instance?
Do I have limiting beliefs that are standing in my way?
Would I benefit by taking some time out to rest and recharge?
How might the people I look up to manage this setback?
What stories am I telling myself about my ability to succeed?
Finally, consider what you need in order to grow. Maybe you would benefit from a mentor who can offer guidance or perhaps you could get to where you need to be by signing up to a course where you’ll learn new skills.
Looking at a setback as an obstacle to overcome rather than a signal to give up and never try again is known as a growth mindset. When you cultivate this mindset, you quickly realise that your talents, skills, and abilities aren’t fixed, and challenges merely exist to help you evolve and grow.
A growth mindset is a scientific concept by Dr Carol Dweck. Dr. Dweck has stated that anyone can cultivate a growth mindset. All you have to do is change your perspective.
Think of it like this: our brains have plasticity. They are able to change, adapt and grow according to how we nourish them: your ability to succeed is no different.
Just keep going…
When you’re striking out time and again and it feels like setback after setback is pushing you further away from your goals, do not give up. Pick yourself up, dust yourself down and use it as fuel for the fire.
Setbacks are a test of your commitment. They force you to consider how badly you want it and they help you grow into the version of yourself that’s a match for your goals.
The next time you’re mid-setback, struggling to get back to your feet and wondering if it’s worth it, we want you to remember these words from Winston Churchill: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”