Life is rarely entirely smooth and sometimes we are faced with massive setbacks. In previous articles I have written about those bumps in the road that can threaten to derail you and throw you off course. These can be minor irritations, molehills and occasionally something a little more of an obstacle.

Then, sometimes something crops up that is huge and threatens everything you are aiming for.  You can see that this obstacle has the potential of stopping you completely and denying you your goal.

Eg. loss of company, divorce, loss of job, loss of home, illness, loss of loved one…a disaster

This is the time to look for a different route.  Acknowledge the huge problem in front of you, stop and think and then figure out how you can carve a new path. It may not be one you had considered before nor one you particularly want to take but keep your eyes on the prize.

Given enough time, without panicking, a solution will present itself.  It may even be the solution is to stop doing what you were doing and re-start towards a different goal (frustrating, even frightening, but doable).

Dealing with massive setbacks – one day at a time

I find that when faced with something huge I can feel overwhelmed. I’ve learnt that if I walk away for a while, with every intention of coming back to it, the act of taking that break allows suggestions to solutions spring to mind.

Being overwhelmed by massive setbacks is natural, normal even, but that can get you stuck in the disaster rather than being able to deal with it. The act of walking away is not cowardly, it may be necessary. It is very difficult to see a solution when you are in the middle of chaos.


Stepping back from a problem allows perspective and a breather.

Doing something else also distracts me for long enough that my creative thought processes come to the fore and solutions I may never have thought would work solidify and show they are viable alternatives.

Setbacks are not a solo project

When something really terrible happens the tendency is to withdraw into oneself. The notion of the British “stiff upper lip” says we battle on regardless. This can be a highly dangerous path. At work, you refuse to acknowledge your pain, and your concentration is hopeless. At home, you feel unable to deal with normal family life and you become irritable, angry, depressed or tearful. It is a bit like having to deal with the stages of grief with these major setbacks. Denial is one stage and definitely not one you want to get stuck in. Anger is another and can be destructive to those around you.  Guilt is probably the most insidious stage as it can completely undermine your confidence and ability to recover. All of these stages can be handled if, first they are acknowledged, and secondly, you ask for help.

The fact is, your life has changed, whether at work or at home. You have hit an immoveable mountain, something that says you cannot continue down the path you had chosen to follow. You have to find a new way. There is always another path. It may not be the one you wanted, but it could take you on a different journey that ultimately may be more satisfying than your previous life.

What you need to hold clearly in your sights is your eventual destination. There is a rather apt quote from Frank Clark, a 19th century American politician,

If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.

Although many say we have to carve our own paths, I feel that we also have to accept help and guidance. Coming back from the devastation of the train crash would not have been possible for me without the help of the medical profession and friends and family. However, in those 3am moments when you are so alone, you need to find your own reserves of strength.

Setbacks need not stop you moving forward

alpine-mountainIf you have goals in mind, an end point that you are aiming for, then setbacks, however significant, need not stop you achieving what you want. It does not make a difference whether these are business or life goals. The challenges you face are not insurmountable, they force you to think differently. An un-challenged life is rarely one of growth or development. Obstacles and setbacks require a flexible mind to overcome them and triumph. A flexible mind is one of the keys to success. The phrase, “All roads lead to Rome…” was first written in English by Chaucer, and means that different paths can take one to the same goal.

Whatever event changes your course; remember it is your choice as to whether you let this become the moment you stop moving forward. Take a breath; allow yourself time to reflect, to grieve, to be angry…then let your mind consider the alternative paths. One of them will lead you to where you want to go.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *