The Value of Setbacks

“Don’t let your setbacks set you back,” Stacy Abrams, the Democratic candidate for the Georgia Governor role shared in a recent TED Talk. There is so much wisdom in that line.

So many times, we give up, give in and retreat when we’ve experienced a setback. We get the wind knocked out of us – figuratively or literally – and we run away, focused on our hurt, disappointment or frustration. We use our energy to justify that whatever didn’t go our way wasn’t really worth it anyway. It is easier to give up instead of to get up.

But whoever said anything about work or life would be easy, especially about the meaningful things?

A setback is really something that didn’t go as planned. It could be a promotion that is given to another. It could be your best employee just gave her notice. It could be your largest customer decides to shift his business to your competition. It could be someone in your family becomes ill or hurt. It could be the offer you placed on your dream house was rejected.

Every setback has valuable information for you if you choose to see it. Reflect on how you view setbacks. Do you see them as opportunities for disappointment and despair, or opportunities to become better, wiser and more resilient? Same situation, different outcome. You choose how you are with what work and life sends you.

Questions you can ask yourself when faced with any setback include:

  • What does this setback tell me about me, my approach or my effort?
  • Why did this setback happen?
  • How can I make a success out of what has happened?
  • What would someone courageous and resilient do here?

I regularly share in both my coaching and in the programs I teach to CEOs that life sends us two things: successes so we learn to celebrate, and setbacks so we learn how to be resilient in a world that constantly changes. Both are necessary, but the real progress happens in the setbacks. That is, if you have the courage and tenacity to see and use their value to be better in the next moment.

Take Action
Stop and notice a recent setback. Reflect on how you responded and why. Now, remind yourself that a setback is just new information. Reflect on what this setback taught you about you – and how you can use it to be better. Consider sharing this approach with others who matter to you in work and life.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Succeed in Changing Times

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