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Dealing With Setbacks

Dealing with Setbacks
How to reframe failures as challenges


“Once I stopped seeing my setbacks as a return of symptoms that would overpower me and never go away,
I never saw them in a negative way again nor did it occur to me that I wouldn't just get back up and continue on to my end goal. I weathered my bad days, accepted that they were there even if I didn't like them and looked forward to enjoying my next good days and continuing onto my goal. In this way I found my setbacks had a much shorter duration and became more and more infrequent while my better days became gradually more frequent.” - Michelle, life coach

Setbacks, this word can give many of us a bad feeling. A feeling that we’re failing. A feeling that we’ve gone backwards. A feeling that we’ve achieved nothing. Although this isn’t really the case (surprise!), there is actually a pretty good reason why it all seems to be negative. It’s called “negativity bias”.


It is easier to believe a lie that you have heard a thousand times,
than the truth which you have only heard once.”  - Unknown


Have you ever noticed that bad experiences often trump the good ones? It can be with emotions, with daily situations, or even with health. This is why we tend to remember negative events better than we do positive. We wear coal-coloured glasses, if you will (or whatever the opposite of rose-coloured glasses is). In the context of setbacks, it seems to make sense why it is that when we may have moved five steps “forward” and one step “back”, all we can think about is the backward direction.


Understanding is the secret to managing setbacks. Setbacks are likely to happen; particularly in recovery. The only thing that prolongs a setback is your perception of it. If you don’t give it the power, it can’t take the power away from you. Easier said than done, I know. But let me tell you a secret… We never stop learning. Be open to trying something new or changing direction slightly. Slow down and let yourself process what has happened.


“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” - Japanese proverb


Try and look at setbacks as a challenge, not as a threat or a failure. Setbacks show you what you have learnt. They show you that you’ve been working towards a goal. Maybe you need to adapt your approach or try something new to get there but that’s okay. Don’t assume you know the outcome if you end up going in an unexpected direction. Trust in your abilities and know that you will get through it. You’ve done this before.

Written by Tanya, ADAVIC Volunteer


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