Everything You Need to Know About Overcoming a Setback


Set backs happen.

I spent most of December 2017 resting, reflecting on the year, building my vision and “plan” for 2018. I stepped into the new year and everything changed.

Setbacks happen. It is part of the mystery and ebb and flow of life. They range from minor kinks in our plans, to completely sidelining us in the most earth shattering way. They are usually unexpected and unless we plan for all the unexpected potentialities (which is a huge exertion of time and energy), we have to learn how adapt and problem solve to continue moving forward.

Whether you are experiencing a horrible flu at-the-worst possible time, a breakup, a family, financial, or health emergency, or even a perceived failure at work, consider the idea that your setback offer an opportunity.

An opportunity to re-align. To learn and grow as you ebb and flow through the experience, as my own coach and mentor would say “stay steady” through the unfolding process.

Before we dive into moving through setbacks, lets touch briefly on the perils.

Setbacks can be emotionally charged experiences. They trigger feelings of hurt, guilt, shame, fear, rejection, embarrassment and a sense of loss. Our perception of the situation and our relationship with our own emotional body (i.e. our mindset and our relationship to our feelings) will shape how we experience the setback and the degree to which we will suffer through it.

The antithesis of moving forward is getting stuck. Psychological, emotional and energetic ruts can show up as sustained feelings of self-pity, feeling blocked or feeling helpless or hopeless. This is usually the point when people give up.

Be it a business goal, an educational pursuit or an emotional desire - like finding true love - in the midst of a rut, we begin to tell ourselves untruths, such as, “perhaps I’m not cut out for this” (self-doubt), or “maybe it’s not in the cards for me” (fatalism).

But the true tragedy is, if you give up what you are pursuing (your heart centered goal), then the world loses out on what you can uniquely offer.

Are you ready to “hold steady” and move forward? Here are 7 steps to mindfully contemplate and follow, to get you back on your feet.


1. Shift Away From Blame

When something goes wrong it is easy to fall into blame. Whether it is blaming yourself or someone else. But fixating on blame is a dead end. Here’s why.

Blaming another person is either a defense mechanism (projection), a way to hurt another person (punishment), or an inability to accept a role of responsibility (however small or large, conscious or subconscious).

Habitually blaming yourself is usually the result of internalizing the idea that you are irreparably flawed, irresponsible, or foolish. This thought pattern sets the subconscious stage for you to believe you might not succeed in the future.

Even blaming a higher power still renders you powerless to stand and face your challenge with focused intention and an open heart.

The bottom line is that blaming, no matter who it is directed at, sabotages your ability to move forward and rebalance your wellbeing.


2. Move Toward Acceptance

Something magical happens when we step into acceptance.

There is a release that happens from letting go of holding on so tightly to denial, disbelief, avoidance or blame. Resisting acceptance is actually a lot of work. Acceptance is laying down the fight. By releasing what is beyond our control, we become empowered to embrace what we can control: our response.


3. Embrace Your Emotions.

Moving into your emotions moves you closer to yourself by deepening into self-awareness. It is your authentic self getting very real. So, go ahead and FEEL.

If you are “tightening up”, “pushing down”, “numbing out” or “bypassing” unpleasant emotions such grief or loss the result will be the same. Unreleased emotions (energy) will lay beneath the surface or silently build up. Energy needs to flow. It has to go somewhere. Which is why feeling and releasing emotions, like crying, is such a cleansing act. It invites renewal.

So, don’t be afraid to go there. Let yourself feel the disappointment, the sadness, the fear, then move through it as it passes (because it will pass) to release and clear. Eventually there will be a point for emotional resolve.

Allowing yourself to truly feel whatever it is you are feeling truly is an act of self care.


4. Rest and Recuperate.

Experiencing anything unexpected can be a shock to the system, which means the adrenal glands start pumping and the sympathetic nervous system goes into fight or flight mode.

In times of sustained stress, the body literally needs to rest and recuperate in order to have the energy to face the challenge again until it is resolved. In other words, this is extreme self care time.

Stress, either acute or long term, adversely affects the Musculoskeletal System, Respiratory System, Cardiovascular System, Endocrine System, Gastrointestinal System and the Nervous system. (Source)  

So, take a break from social media, go outside, go for a walk, take a nap, read a book and nourish yourself with herbal tea and nutritious food while you give yourself ample quiet time. You might be surprised what comes to the surface while you are resting.


5. Reflect.

Contemplation opens the door for insights, perspective, solutions, and eventually, resolve.

Taking time to process and reflect on your setback when you are ready, is a key part of the transformation process. What have you learned? What mistakes need to be corrected? What is be asking to be released? Listen to your intuition.

Also, consider the subconscious player in all of this. The subconscious mind can play a major role in creating a pattern of setbacks. The question then becomes, what lies beneath the surface? Is there a pattern of fear, self doubt, self sabotage?  Allow the answers to percolate in a quiet space as you gain new perspective.  Write down your insights as they arrive. Appreciate the person (the authentic you) who surfaces from beneath the layers.


6. Allow and Trust.

The how, why and when unexpected things happen, I believe, are unfolding in a much broader context then we might understand at that given moment, but perhaps, looking back might make perfect sense. Perhaps it makes room for an even more aligned path, partner, or situation.  This is when we make room for allowing and trusting a bigger story to unfold. We make room for mystery and Spirit to lead the way, which takes great courage (releasing control) and great faith (trust in the unknown).  

You may already be familiar with the old adage: “Breakdowns lead to breakthroughs” and “Allow things to fall apart so they can fall together”. These sayings have stretched me over the decades, but in all my years, these simple truths have yet to be proven wrong. I have seen it over and over again. Trusting and allowing the unfolding of the bigger story, even if we are holding only pieces a few pieces of puzzle at the time.


7. Begin, Again.  

When you are ready, (after picking yourself up and dusting yourself off), getting started again is moving forward. However, moving forward is not always a linear process (life is not lived in a straight line). There are dips, returns, turn offs, and tailspins.

As long as you place one foot in front of the other, learn from your mistakes, listen to your intuition, you are moving in the right direction. So in truth, experiencing setbacks or perceived failures is actually part of the process. It is part of the path. Working through setbacks (small and large) is part of moving forward.

How we grow through these experiences, and the insights we gain, is the gift.

In closing, I am going to share one of my favorite movie quotes (though not necessarily my favorite movie), that I think sums it all up beautifully:


“At some point, everything's gonna go south on you and you're going to say, this is it.

This is how I end.

Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work.

That's all it is. You just begin.

You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next.

And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”

-Mark Waltney, The Martian


For Your Journal Reflection:

1. What was the last setback you experienced, and what was your #1 secret weapon for overcoming it?

Thank you for taking the time to journey with me today!

From my heart-center to yours, Noemi