The Winning 4-Step Process for Overcoming Setbacks

by | May 18, 2020 | Blog, Inspiration, Mindset, Tips | 0 comments

Setbacks happen, it’s an inevitable part of life. Especially if you’re putting yourself out there, striving hard, working hard, and challenging your fears. Successful people do not avoid setbacks, they expect them.

So before we get stuck into the four strategies, it is first important to address your mindset. Are you ready to expect setbacks? Are you ready to live your life without fear, and know that you can tackle the obstacles that come your way? And especially are you ready to realise that the setbacks are worth it.

When I was 17 I was introduced to the idea of Type-A fun and Type-B fun; Type-A fun is fun you experience DURING an activity, e.g. jumping on a trampoline, whereas Type-B fun is fun you experience AFTER an activity, like the view at the top of a mountain after a difficult climb. Type-B fun is not as immediate, but it is definitely worth it, and often has a more lasting impact on you because the emotions associated involve a sense of accomplishment, pride in yourself, and overcoming something that was challenging.

I’m afraid to say that overcoming setbacks is very much Type-B fun, you’re not doing to enjoy it initially, but once you’ve overcome it, you’ll feel amazing. More often than not, a setback becomes an opportunity, either for learning, or to help you reassess how things are going, or to pivot and change direction. So, don’t shy away from setbacks; expect them, embrace them, and ‘enjoy’ them (retrospectively of course 😉). And when they do pop up, here is a fool-proof 4-step process for how to overcome them:

Step 1: Have a Cup of Tea and/or a Bowl of Coco Pops

If there is one thing I have learned from when the world throws you a curveball, it’s that it’s important to take the time to acknowledge it, process it and accept it. Making quick, on-the-fly decisions when faced with hardship can often mean you end up making emotional decisions, rather than rational ones, because you are being governed by the strong emotions you experience when you are hit with a setback.

So, take a minute, acknowledge the emotions, and allow yourself the time to process it. For me, (and this is probably the British in me coming out) having a cup of tea and a bowl of coco pops always works a treat for helping me feel comforted, calmer, and more able to take stock and reflect. Whatever your go-to comfort routine is, go there, and give yourself the time to process what’s happening.

Depending on the size of the obstacle, it might take more than a cup of tea and a bowl of chocolatey goodness to help your process this setback, and that’s okay. You might need to take an evening or a few days to come to terms with it, however it is important to put a time limit on this time, otherwise you risk falling into a hole of self-pity and not getting back up again. Say to yourself, I’m going to take this evening, or this weekend, or however long it might be, and after that I’m going to make a plan and take action to overcome this.

Success is very much a mindset, and if you want to overcome this, you’re going to need a proactive mentality.

Step 2: Talk

Now depending on what personality you are, this step will look different. If you’re a very analytical person, you might need to only talk to one external party, whereas if you are an emotional person (like myself) you might need a few conversations. My strategy here is always to first talk to someone who I know will validate and recognise my feelings, it’s important to know it’s okay to be feeling the way you are, and you might need to first talk to someone who won’t try and make you find a solution immediately, but will let you just talk through the emotions that are coming up. 

The second conversation needs to be with someone who can be objective about the situation. If you’ve just been made redundant, it might not be the best idea to call your best work friend, for example, as they will have their own emotional investment in the situation. Call someone whose opinion you respect, someone who is unemotional, or at least detached from whichever part of your life the obstacle is happening, and someone who can be rational about the situation.

Often this can be a mentor, or a parent, or an objective friend. Make sure it is someone you really trust, as you need to be able to share completely openly and honestly in order to make a good decision about how to move forward. Listen to their advice and guidance, but don’t commit to making any decisions at this point, this conversation should merely act as a sounding board for you; a space to explore what your options are and how you feel about those different courses of action.

Step 3: Discover and Assess Your Options

This is a really key phase. Sometimes when you are faced with a setback, there is only one option to choose, or you are forced by something external to choose a certain action, but more often than not, there are different possibilities. It’s important to really think through your options, and take the time to see how each one would ‘fit’ if you were to choose it.

I am very much a list person, so this step for me always looks like a list of pros and cons hand-written on plain paper. However you might prefer to do a mind map, or write on post-its and stick them up on your wall, or type your options into a spreadsheet – whatever process works best for you in exploring your options, do it. Get stuck in, even if some ideas seem silly, don’t shy away from them, embrace whatever solutions are coming up and get them down so you can clearly assess what your options are. You might like to involve your objective mentor/parent/friend at this point as it can be beneficial to do this step with the help of someone else if you work best when bouncing ideas and discussing with someone.

Step 4: Make a decision, sleep on it, stick to it

The final phase is, of course, to make a decision. The decision-making process can go wrong in two ways; one is if you haven’t thought about it enough, and the second is if you think about it too much. There are two very simple solutions to avoid either of those scenarios.

Firstly, make your decision and then sleep on it. This is age-old advice, but it has been passed down through generations for a reason – because it works. We often feel differently about things in the morning, so if you wake up and you still think you’ve made the right decision, then go for it. The second aspect of this is that you want to avoid ‘flip-floping’ between decisions. It is perfectly normal to change your mind and if you think you’ve landed on an incorrect decision, then by all means, change it. But what you want to avoid is the ‘flip-flopping’, which normally comes from making decisions from an emotional place or over-thinking your decision. If you are certain you have made your decision from a rational and objective perspective, then have the confidence to stick to it. Don’t doubt yourself, we have intuition for a reason, so trust where you have landed.

The most important step in overcoming setbacks is actually taking action. The process is important, but actioning your decision is the only way you’re going to get on the path of overcoming your challenge and achieving Type-B fun where you can look back and realise how well you overcame what the world threw at you. So, go for it, jump in, and trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. 


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