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February 18, 2020

Setback? How to Overcome it—to Grow in Your Life

It’s bloody windy as I write this! Almost a relief that football was called off, as I have to crack on with a few tasks on my new business setup. Then it got me thinking about how many of these tasks I’ve achieved recently, and how some things that once seemed so daunting now feel so much easier.

Then it made me think about the challenges I’ve faced and how easy they look now—and how much they’ve made me grow.


You can’t avoid setbacks or mistakes

Setbacks in life; can we avoid them? Mistakes – can we avoid these? Will life flow smoothly all the time? Nope to all of these.

We can, however, reduce the number of likely setbacks and mistakes in life, and when I say that, it does sound appealing to do this …

The way to do this is to never push yourself towards your goals, never come out of your comfort zone, never grow—and stay still. Obviously, that kind of life is never going to change us.

When we do push for greater things, the number of setbacks and mistakes will increase, so this can be seen as a starter for greatness. It’s all about perspective.

Whether I’ve got promoted, got a better job, started my writing, started speaking, started my coaching career, been out dating I have always found that more setbacks came as I pushed myself toward new things and goals. Yet when I’ve overcome those setbacks, I’ve found that I’ve grown so much more and things that seemed so daunting once are not so daunting anymore.

Now, there will be some setbacks worse than others, and like any human, I’ve experienced this. I would like to emphasise that I am not saying ‘get over it’ and on to the next challenge.

What I’ve learned from setbacks


So, I’ve thought about all the positives and summarised what I’ve learned from setbacks into my top three things:


Path to something better

When something hasn’t worked out, it can sometimes be for the best. So, whether that is missing out on the job you thought you ’needed’ or dating the person you thought you ‘wanted’, the same applies.

I believe now that if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. A setback sometimes is teaching you that it’s not the right thing for you. Use your judgement, though, as to whether something is not right for you or something you really want and need to pursue.

For example, if you get rejected by a date, it’s better to try find someone else. Pursuing someone who doesn’t have the same interest in you is pointless and a waste of energy. This gives you an opportunity to work on yourself and find someone more suited.

If you miss out on a job, that one may have not been right for you either. However, you might love the career you are following, so don’t give up on it; it’s just a chance to work on yourself and when the right opportunity presents itself, you can go for it.


More about myself

When I’ve had setbacks, it’s helped me learn more about myself. It’s helped me learn how strong I am and what I’ve really wanted. It’s helped me learn about the skills I do have.

For example, when I went through a number of job interview rejections, it taught me how to really utilise some of my presentation skills I wouldn’t otherwise have realised I had. I learned how to present myself along the way and express myself.

How to turn a negative into positive action

I’ve learned how to change a negative into a positive. I learned that although getting out the frustration and disappointment is needed in the short term; it does not help to dwell on it and fall victim to my own life.

Therefore, by getting my brain to focus on next steps, it has helped me think more positively and action-focused going forward. This is a key skill for life as we don’t improve by what we think—but rather, by what actions we take.


Ok, Jonny – all well and good, but you’re quite a positive person. Some of us aren’t as positive, so how do we change this and react more positively to setbacks?


I am not just a naturally positive person; that’s the truth. I have had to work hard at improving my mindset to turn things around. That is probably the case for many people you see around you, the ones who always seem to have a smile on their faces no matter what.

You have no idea how hard these people have worked to become more positive and more proactive about improving their mindsets.

The reality is, I work on my own positive actions every single day! It’s a practice and habit. It’s like anything else.

We don’t get into good shape without doing exercise and eating well. We don’t become a good singer, without singing. We don’t become confident, without doing confident things.


You think it’s impossible to ‘do positive’ while feeling bad? Not so. This is something you can learn too.

I know that not everything is going to be smooth in life, and I won’t be in a good state all the time. I do also know that if I don’t set myself up with the right habits and practises for positivity, I will struggle even more against setbacks.

That is why I do things like meditation, exercise, eat well, socialise, and many other things to help me be in a better positive state. Anyone can do this though; we don’t have to be helpless and say, ‘oh I’m just not a very positive person’ or ‘why do bad things always happen to me?’

Believe me, if you think bad things are going to happen to you all the time, they will—because your mindset makes you very vulnerable.

Now, as I say, some setbacks I encounter are certainly harder than others, and some people will have way harder setbacks than I do. Note that I don’t claim to have ownership of anyone else’s setbacks—only my own. But I do have ownership of knowing yours don’t have to beat you down.


How do I know this?

Well, that’s simple. I’ve seen myriad examples of people out there who have had horrible setbacks and come out on top with their response. Two examples:

Keanu Reeves – just Google his history to see what he’s overcome to be the man he is today.

J.K Rowling – this top-selling global author was rejected by so many publishers, alongside a series of personal setbacks, before she became one of the most successful authors in the world. This is the lady who sat in coffee shops unable to afford a coffee, as she struggled to pen her manuscript!


How can you change around setbacks into a better life?

Here are just some of the positive, ‘take action’ steps YOU too can take—starting right now—to be the more positive person you wish to be.


Allow frustration or disappointment

Some things are going to take more time to get over. Don’t ever bottle anything up though; talk it out, scream into a pillow, do some intense exercise—and anything else that’s healthy, all in reason of course.


Ask what you have learned from this

Did this life lesson teach you more about what you want? Did it teach you more about you as a person? Note the good points and developments you’ve learned from a setback.


Ask what you can do next time

When we ask the brain a question, it will look for an answer. Once you’ve had time to get over something, ask yourself what you can do next. What actions can you apply to progress with your life? Take some of the learning into account too.


Look at what you do have and be grateful

Gratitude is something everyone overlooks, me included. When you take time to appreciate what you do have, though, it helps you feel better.

So, spend time writing down all the things you do have rather than those you don’t. It trains the brain to focus on the positives rather than looking for dangers or the negatives, which is its default mode.

I spend a few minutes in the mornings, journaling my gratitude, for example.



Setbacks and challenges in life are inevitable, but respond to them with positive actions, and you are going to learn and grow.

This will just happen by default, too! That’s the really great news.

Go swimming every day, and you’ll become a better swimmer. Make more cookies, and the cookies will come out better. Respond positively to setbacks, and you will grow. It will have happened before you know it.

There will be times where setbacks and challenges are extremely hard, and it is ok to feel down or to feel frustrated. It’s natural, a part of ‘the human condition’.

The issue only becomes when you see yourself as a victim of life rather than learning from it, to become the stronger and greater version of you, the one you are capable of being.


Jonny Pardoe © January 2020

Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash

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