Life is beautiful, but it is not always easy. At various points in our lives, we will encounter setbacks, failures, and obstacles. These setbacks can be like speedbumps, slowing us down, but some are like a walls, insurmountable and stops us completely. Here are the types of setbacks that we can encounter in life.

Personal setbacks

  • getting sick or injured
  • having mental health issues  (i.e., anxiety depression)
  • having relationship problems (i.e., divorce, family conflict)
  • losing a partner, family member, a home, a hope or dream

Professional setbacks

  • losing a big sale
  • being overlooked for a promotion
  • being laid off or fired

Financial setbacks

  • being unemployed
  • losing money
  • losing an investment

Natural setbacks

  • experiencing natural disasters (i.e., hurricane, earthquake)
  • surviving a global pandemic and its effects
  • experiencing fire


Setbacks are an important part of our life. They are there for a purpose: redirecting us to where our true path lies. Setbacks do not throw us off our path; rather, they are opportunities for us to learn and grow. But what causes them in the first place? Here are reasons why we experience personal setbacks.

  1. Loss of motivation: lack of motivation causes setbacks because it deters our efforts to do things. When we are unmotivated, we have no goals, we feel limited, and we have no desire or willingness to work. All these are ingredients for a setback.
  2. Self-sabotage: we may deny it, but we are likely to sabotage ourselves. We may think outside forces hold us back but more than likely it is us who are responsible for our setbacks. We sabotage ourselves for many reasons. It could be fear of success or that we don’t deserve it.
  3. Curve balls: setbacks are curve balls that life throws us. Many times setbacks are unexpected but not totally surprising. They are, unfortunately, part of life. They are there to help us grow and be the best version of ourselves.


When we encounter setbacks, it may feel like it is the end of the world. But it is not. Here are the three steps that can help us deal with setbacks:


  1. Honor the emotions that come with the setbacks.


When we encounter a setback, our first impulse is to start fixing it or working through it. Many times we push away the pain, hurt, frustration, embarrassment, etc. that we may be feeling. However, one critical step in the process of dealing with our setback is to acknowledge the situation and allow ourselves to feel. It is okay to feel hurt or scared or overwhelmed or whatever feeling that comes up.

Oftentimes, we rationalize, and we tell ourselves to be positive. Denying or invalidating our feelings can also be harmful because unless we process our emotions, we cannot move past it.

Instead of pushing it down deep within us (where they would be slowly eating away at us), we need to acknowledge and feel our emotions. Let them arise and release them: cry, scream, journal, talk to a friend, go to a therapist or coach.

It is important to identify what the feelings are telling us. When we take the time to process them   they would eventually pass.


  1. Step back and gain perspective of the situation


Setbacks allow us to pause and reflect on what we really want from life. This is an opportunity that life is giving us to get clear of what we want or don’t want in life. We take the time to step back and evaluate our priorities, know what’s important to us, and define what we want from now on.

Reflecting on our setbacks will allow us to gain perspective and learn the lesson that life is giving us. It is important to identify the lessons we have learned from our experience. We could then move forward with the knowledge and experience about how we could be better the next time.

Finally, be thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow. It is only through experiencing setbacks that we, ironically, move forward—to be free and move on to something better. So be grateful for what happened.


  1. Use setbacks as stepping stones to success.


For each setback that we encounter, we become better at life. Life is a progression, and these setbacks are just the stepping stones towards a better future. We have two alternatives when faced with a setback: we allow it to take us down or we use it to step up and move forward. Which will you choose? Do not get stuck with what went wrong; instead, take all the lessons you can learn and use them to propel you to success. Remember that  you are now better equipped to handle whatever life throws at you because you now know better. You are now geared for success. You are better, stronger, wiser.