How to deal with a setback

Life is full of ups and downs. We think we can control so much in our lives, and sometimes we can. But, there are times that reality hands us unforeseen challenges. And when that happens, the question is, how do we respond?

Setbacks can show up in many forms. For me in the recent past, I’ve experienced a bit of a health setback that took me by surprise. But you may be facing unexpected challenges that range from a problem at work, to an unexpected issue with a child or parent, to a life interruption caused by mother nature, to a late snag in a big project, to a stalled negotiation, or any number of other scenarios.

When something like this happens, how do you respond? Do you feel panic? Become a bundle of nerves? Worry excessively? Here are 3 ways to think about and work through a challenge you face.

1. Get all of the information you can.

This may mean doing your homework, arranging to get the medical care you need, doing research, considering all of your options, advocating for yourself, and reaching out for help and support. I suggest talking through all of this with someone you trust to listen well and help you find answers — those that are external, and those you need to dig for in yourself.

2. Look at all points of view.

This is something we rarely do. We think things through in our heads and come to a point of view without turning the question around, without considering the way others see the issue, or without asking to find out how someone else would approach a similar challenge. What we think at a given moment is not necessarily the whole truth, or the only way forward. From what angle are you looking at the problem? Where are you focused? What might you be missing if you don't consider many points of view? How can you look at a wider view of the situation? Get curious and bravely look at all the angles and possibilities.

3. Be patient, courageous, persevere, and keep things in perspective.

It is normal to feel fear, anxiety, impatience, and distress when things go awry. And, it’s easy to lose the true perspective of the impact of the setback. It takes trust and patience — with yourself and others — as well as determination and courage, to slow down, attain the information you need, and consider many points of view. By patiently doing that, rather than reacting and rushing forward impulsively, you are more able to find a clear and positive path. You are able to persevere and to do what needs to be done — even when none of this was in your plans.

And, when you find yourself pulling through the challenge — both along the way and when you are on the other side of it — be sure to acknowledge what you accomplished. Savor and celebrate your patience, trust and successes. Don’t rush into whatever is next without appreciating and acknowledging your efforts.

These are basic ways you can coach yourself when life unexpectedly throws obstacles in your path. You may have other ideas about how to find and build resilience. Let me know what you think about it and what has worked for you.


If you’re looking for help along this journey, you can consider having a coach to support you to get clear about the life and work questions on your mind — to live the big life you long for — so that you can set clear objectives and get help to step into your future with intention and commitment. If that’s something you want to explore, I welcome you to set up an Introductory Coaching Call with me. There’s no cost or obligation for us to meet. Simply complete the Coaching Inquiry Form and I’ll be in touch to make a date with you.

How gratitude super-powers life

We can cultivate states of mind that open us to creativity and enhance our happiness and well-being. That open our heart in beautiful ways. That plug us in to the glories of the world around us.

Focusing on love is one such state of mind. Being at peace, and consciously spreading peace is magnificent. Focusing on the moment we're in — without dwelling on the past or fast-forwarding to the future — calms and centers us. Being joyous keeps us from suffering anxiety and worry when there's no real danger in our midst.

These are all important and powerful forces that we can be mindful of, and that we can make a reality in our day-to-day lives if we focus on them. They let our spirit soar. They set the stage for goodness of all kinds.

I created a little pad of Gratitude sheets that I keep on my desk. It's a great prompt for me to make a list every day.

I created a little pad of Gratitude sheets that I keep on my desk. It's a great prompt for me to make a list every day.

And, there's something else we can add, that not only amplifies all of that wonderfulness, it accelerates the benefits of those states of being. Gratitude is the extra ingredient that can make life enormously rich and rewarding.

Gratitude tunes us in to small moments of wonder and loveliness — the things that typically go unnoticed as we go through our days. When we take a few minutes each day to jot down 5 things, 10 things, even 12 things for which we're grateful, we are alert to our lives in a new way. And we can rejoice in all there is to feel grateful for. 

When we practice gratitude we are slowing down — slowing down to notice things we can appreciate, and slowing down to note them. We can write that we're grateful for the restored health of someone we love, for the momentary kindness of a stranger, for having a safe place to live, for the inspiration found in a newspaper article, for an insight we gleaned in a conversation, for the taste of something delicious, for the fun of laughing with a friend, for a discovery made on an outing, for the budding of trees and blooming of flowers, for courageously trying something new, for the sweetness of watching a young child at play.

There are endless things for which we can feel gratitude. When we observe those things, and note them as we start our day, before switching off the light at night, or any time and place in between, we are enriching our hearts and connecting to all the sweetness in life. 

In addition to better emotional wellbeing, we have greater vitality when we are grateful. Gratitude enhances our relationships — we are in a kinder state of mind and more empathetic. Science shows that grateful people feel better physically, having fewer aches and pains and sleeping better, and there's even evidence that they have stronger immune systems. We feel better about ourselves and experience less doubt. And, we are more emotionally resilient when the inevitable challenges come up in our lives. 

All of these benefits make life so much sweeter. We can feel so much more open and ready to make the most of our lives. We can be courageous and live creatively in every moment. We can put fear aside and be bold. Gratitude helps us to truly live big.