How to Handle Setbacks

I was going through the fall issue of Magnolia Journal (FINALLY) that contained several articles or features about the theme of forward motion. And no, I’m not referencing the Big Game. Yay Rams! 馃槈

Jo’s thoughts were more about society as a whole and how we seem to be stuck, not moving forward where “drama and division are offered up as a source of cheap entertainment”. When did we become a society that cared more about being RIGHT in political stance than in connecting on a deeper human level? I don’t remember my parents ever talking politics.

On a personal level though, forward motion is also an important theme. We all experience setbacks at some time in our lives and how we respond to them is important.

There are 4 types of responses :

1. Blind optimism/denial
2. Depression/blind pessimism
3. Anger
4. Resolve – acknowledging the problem and facing it.

Do you see a pattern in the way you react to a setback? Obviously, the best response would be #4, but it’s not always innate to ourselves. Luckily, there is a way out. We can work on developing resilience!


Resiliency is the capacity to cope with stress or hardship and to be able to bounce back from setbacks, even though it might take a while.聽 People who learn to be resilient tend to live longer and have less stress overall.

Components of Resiliency

  1. Self-efficacy: the belief that you can succeed through effort, determination, and perseverance. It’s the belief that you have the ability to change your situation, that you are in control, and that you have the opportunity to create positive change.
  2. Optimism: the belief that something better is waiting, that you will prevail and things will get better.
  3. Grit: the ability to keep going; never give up.

How to Develop More Resilience

1. Practice optimism

It’s hard to be optimistic when the path to a brighter future is not in sight.聽 I found that starting a gratitude practice helped me to become more optimistic. It changed the way I thought about things. The more I expressed gratitude in my day, the more things I found to be grateful for and the more optimistic my attitude became.

Alarge bunch of helium balloons floating upward through the balcony of a pink building.

Whenever I’m feeling down, I just look up.

2. Change your self-talk.

Practice saying good things about yourself rather than criticizing everything about yourself. A good way to begin to do this is by using positive affirmations. You can find lists of affirmations on the web about almost anything – self-worth, money, love, self-confidence, health, gratitude, and even fear. By repeating a chosen affirmation several times a day, you’ll begin to become that which you state. It definitely feels weird at first, but it works.

3. Work hard… and be proud of the steps you are taking to move forward.

Acknowledge the problem and face it head-on.聽 Be proud of the steps you take towards fixing it, even it’s just getting out of bed and getting dressed that day.

4. Learn new strategies.

It’s easy to get stuck. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that the definition of insanity is when you do the same thing over and over expecting to get a different result. Sometimes you need to change the things you are doing.

5. Take care of yourself.

This is probably one of the hardest things to do after a setback because you might feel that you are not worthy of or don’t have time for self-care. But a strong physical self leads to a strong mental self so get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, drink lots of water and get enough exercise.

6. Make a plan.

Take a deep breath – literally. It’s the most important part. Then identify the actual problem (not the emotional part of it) and the parts of it that you can control.聽 Consider all your options – get a notepad and brainstorm all your ideas, even the ones you think are just wild and crazy dreams!聽 When I applied to be a brand ambassador for O, The Oprah Magazine, little did I know that I’d be one of just 50 chosen to be part of their program!


Once you have done that, get some outside perspective… but not too much. Sometimes well-meaning people will get in the way of your dreams.

And then keep going!聽 Don’t give up. No matter where you begin, forward motion is the key to achieving your goals.




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