• We will experience a range of setbacks in our life so accepting them early when it happens will dramatically improve our ability to overcome and adapt to them.
  • You will feel emotional distress from setbacks, it’s normal, it happens to everyone and does not mean that you are or will suffer any long-term mental health issues.
  • A setback is temporary.
  • Expect some form of setback, even prepare for it and your response. So, when it happens, you save valuable time and effort in getting back on track.

In March 2020, I found myself on my own, in the middle of the night during a roaring blizzard, lost in the frozen Alaskan Range. The beautiful afternoon had fooled me into a false sense of confidence as I walked through the long valley toward the mountain pass that would see me cross over the range and down onto the frozen river some 25 km away and into the Alaskan interior. As night fell, the blizzard set in, and subsequent snow drift made the trail near impossible to follow causing me to miss the fork in the trail and continue blindly up the valley. This mistake in navigation cost me around 8 hours and resulted in covering an extra 20km. From here things only became worse. As I continued during the 550km race, covering the vast distances in snowshoes due to record snowfalls, my feet deteriorated into open wounds causing tremendous discomfort. Although I managed to complete the event in 10 days, I had suffered a considerable setback and now questioned my ability to cover the much longer 1600km, ITI 1000-mile event.

Setbacks can come in many forms, it could be in the form of a significant error, a major incident that stops you from continuing to move toward your goal or even injury. It’s not only dealing with the setback that you need to overcome but also the longer-term impact it has on your confidence and willingness to confront a similar challenge in the future. The reality is, we will all experience a range of setbacks of varying magnitude throughout our lives and in the grand scheme of things, very few have the power to stop us from achieving a meaningful and fulfilling life.

So how can we take back the power when we are confronted with setbacks?

The first step is to accept that you have had a setback. When we accept our situation rather than try and pretend it hasn’t happened, a few things take place.

  1. There is a change in the neurotransmitters circulating in our brain, which shifts us from a threat-based, high-burn state to a more efficient state improving our cognitive function, and our emotional state and ending the negative impact it has on us.
  2.  When we accept our situation, we go from problem-focused to solution orientated and this changes the way we look at the information.
  3. When we accept the situation, it also allows us to reframe and reduces the power any negative impact has on us, allowing us to focus motivation and attention on moving forward.

The reality is, once something has happened, we cannot undo it, it is done. If we continue to ruminate or dwell on the problem the negative impacts continue to magnify. Once we accept the situation, we are primed to move forward.

When a setback occurs and you are involuntarily forced to deviate from your plan, you will also experience a level of emotional distress, but this is perfectly normal and happens to everyone. The more important or meaningful the activity or challenge you are facing the more distress you may experience but this only validates how important it is. Emotions are like signs that tell us how important something is or isn’t, they inform us of when we should pay attention and focus our efforts. Emotions are also only temporary and once we are motivated again will usually subside or be replaced by positive emotions. If you experience a negative emotion, it may also be your subconscious mind trying to get you angered enough to get off your ass and back into the game or motivated to get back on track. Not all emotions are negative, many are our primitive system telling us to get moving, to get up and seek what we need.

Another tool is to reframe the situation away from any thoughts of failure to an unexpected challenge. If we think of a setback or disruption as a failure, it gives it a terminal or absolute context and the perception that we can not recover. When we frame it as a minor disruption that we didn’t anticipate, it then becomes temporary and we can look at how to recover and get back on track, maybe even develop a few essential skills for next time. 

Lastly, expect a level of adversity and disruption to occur and even plan for it or some of the likely setbacks and solutions that you might face. So, when it happens you can save valuable time and effort, and immediately look at how to get back on track and identify if you need to modify anything to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Anything we do that is worthwhile is going to be challenging and no plan no matter how well thought out will go without disruption. So, when it happens, we shouldn’t be surprised and expecting it to happen can reduce any negative impact and wasted time from worrying about the issue.

A setback is something we will all experience at some point, and we will feel some emotional distress. Expecting it to happen, understanding and planning for what might set us back and accepting it once it has happened and knowing it is only temporary can have a hugely positive effect on its impact and allow us to get back on track much earlier.

This article is presented by 98 Training.

Read more about leading a healthy lifestyle at our Wellness Hub, here.