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5 tips for overcoming setbacks

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

“Dust yourself off and try again”. Does this sound familiar? Setbacks are a regular part of life. We all have them, and not always easy to move past. However, how you deal with those setbacks can be the difference between a feeling of greatness or a feeling of prolonged misery.

The ‘Dust yourself off…’ mentality isn’t generally one that sits well with me. I’ve certainly been in many a situation that hasn't gone to plan and heard the comments; 'you'll bounce back'. ‘It’ll be OK’, ‘It’s not meant to be’, ‘Better luck next time’. All meant with good intentions (I've probably said my fair share of these too!). But how can you ensure you don’t dwell on a set back and let the cycle of negativity eat away at you?

"The beautiful thing about setbacks is they introduce us to our strengths." Robin Sharma

Five tips for overcoming setbacks:

  1. Be prepared - Absolutely have a positive mindset (positive mind = positive outcome), but there is no harm in preparing for an alternative result. Think about the potential other outcomes and how you would feel about / react to each of these?

  2. Talk about them - Setbacks happen to all of us and people love to share their story. Why not talk about your setback with a friend or colleague? It will make you feel better by getting it out in the open, and they may have some good advice to offer.

  3. Be kind - In that moment, you may not feel particularly good about yourself. You may feel let-down and hurt, or disappointed with your performance. It is easy to start negative self-talk. Give yourself time to feel disappointed, but do it with a kindness towards yourself. Recognise the reasons why you feel disappointed or let down. Journalling or meditating can be a great way to give yourself a bit of time and to make sense of your thoughts.

  4. Learn from them - This may be the most important one - what can you learn from your setback? There is always something, however small. Ask yourself, ‘If I were to approach this again, what would I do differently?’ and list everything that you would change. Make a commitment to yourself to make those changes in light of a similar opportunity. Also, remember to note what you’re feeling. These feelings are important intel and will help you learn what you want or what you need to do next time around. If you’re hurt, what is it that hurts? If it’s disappointment, what or who is disappointing you?

  5. Celebrate your successes - It’s very easy to focus on the negative and think of everything you could have done better. For this reason, it is vital to look at what went well and to celebrate that. What was your role in making it a success and how could you best utilise that skill for next time?

Setbacks happen day in day out. Using these five steps will help you manage yourself in light of future setbacks. It is also important to use perspective...'In 10 years, how important will this seem to me? Will I even remember it?'. This simple question can help shift your focus.

How do you deal with setbacks? I would love to hear how you cope and your top tips.


Gemma Brown is a certified coach who works with successful women, 1-2-1 and in groups, to identify their strengths and build confidence which enables them to have the self-belief to fearlessly bring their whole being into all areas of life. Gemma is based in Cambridgeshire and carries out face to face coaching in the area as well as 1-2-1 coaching via Skype and Zoom. For more about Gemma, visit her 'About' page.

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