5 Ways to Move Forward After a Setback

By Dave Clark

Moving forward after a setback, especially an emotional one, can be quite a challenge. When we encounter a major life situation, we can be stripped of our energy and we need to regroup. What tools can we use to help us regroup? How can we be sure that we take that situation, learn from it, and become better because of it? How we handle stress and major setbacks is entirely up to us. And how we rebound from these issues is completely under our control.

In any negative situation, there is usually some good along with the more pervasive bad. Though it may not be easy to look for the good in a moment of conflict or anger, there is usually time for reflection where we can uncover the good or the positives that come from a negative situation. The key for all of us is to take the time to look for the good so something positive can be pulled from any negative situation. These five suggestions below will give you ideas on what to do if you have a major life event that you need to overcome.

Finding the good within the bad

  1. Use the setback as motivation/fuel. Every situation, whether it’s good or bad, provides energy. How you interpret and choose to use that energy is entirely up to you. Maybe someone at your last place of employment said you weren’t good enough. Now is your big chance to prove them wrong. Just as stress can be positive or negative depending on how it is processed internally, energy works exactly the same way. Take the energy produced by your negative situation and use it as fuel to power yourself forward.
  2. Learn from the experience. If you are truly honest with yourself, chances are that in any negative situation, you may have been at least part of the problem. What did you do wrong? What could you have done differently or better? And, most importantly, what will you change if you find yourself in the same situation in the future to set yourself up for success?
  3. Allow the setback to build character. So you were in a bad situation. Whether that situation was personal, work related or otherwise, the fact is that it happened. You can feel sorry for yourself and mope around or you can let this experience build character and make you stronger because of it. It truly is just a matter of perspective and how you choose to move forward from the situation. You can’t change the past, and it’s unhealthy to live in the past, so moving forward with an optimistic attitude is your best course of action.
  4. Think about the positives of the situation. So you really didn’t like your last job? They didn’t appreciate you and worked you too hard? While it’s easy to recall what you didn’t like about that situation, what were the positives that came out of that experience. What did you learn and what lessons/skills came out of it that have moved your forward in a positive way? Focus on the positives and carry those over to your new job while learning from the things that didn’t serve you well.
  5. Realize the purpose of the setback in your overall life plan. Whether you believe in your destiny being predetermined or things happening for a reason, something occured during your setback that positively positioned you for the future. At the time the setback may have been a serious cause of stress but, in time, you realized (or will come to realize) that it happened for a reason and made you better because of it.

Real life lesson #1

The majority of the jobs I’ve had in my career have been mostly positive experiences. Though no job is perfect (it is a job, not a hobby, after all), I’ve had few relatively unpleasant experiences in the workforce. There was one job, however, that pushed my limits for tolerance and taught me a lot of life lessons. While the employer and industry will remain nameless, I got to use many of the five aforementioned suggestions above after my experience with this company. A huge lesson I learned was where I did NOT want to work, and it really changed my outlook for the industry in general. It gave me the motivation to look outside my narrow box (aka: my comfort zone) and consider opportunities for employment in other areas. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise that I did not recognize at the time. Quite a bit of animosity built up over time from being in that situation, but I used it as fuel to power forward into reimagining myself in a better place in the workforce. I learned a lot of lessons to be sure. Though there were some really low times, the experience certainly built character. I did gain many positives during my time there including making many key contacts including being introduced to a local music celebrity which encouraged me to restart my musical endeavors. And, had I not had the most unpleasant of experiences working for this company, I may have made the mistake to settle and stay put in the industry I was in, which didn’t provide much happiness or satisfaction.

Real life lesson #2

At the same time I worked for the company above, I was also doing some freelance writing for a local publication. The objective was to learn important writing skills on a regular deadline, get experience and learn to work within the framework of a publication. The pay was negligible at best, I did it almost solely for the experience. Though the entire first year was smooth and easy, having built a good rapport with my editor, she eventually left and I had to deal with a new editor. Though my writing didn’t change and the content didn’t change, nothing was ever good enough for this new editor. Submissions needed to be re-written two to three times regularly before they were considered complete. The editor would approve a story and then later kill it, without notice, after the story had already been written. The experience working for this editor could be down right brutal at times, but I’m so thankful for the experience. It gave me the tools I needed to succeed and opened the doors of opportunity that led me to the company that I work for today. The job experience today is entirely different, all for the positive, and it’s because of the life lessons I learned writing for that company that helped propel me leaps and bounds ahead into a much better situation for which I am very thankful on a daily basis.


There is a lesson to be learned in every single situation you encounter in life. It doesn’t matter if it’s your job, your personal life or in any random situation you find yourself. The key is how you process every interaction. Though I am still a work in progress, I like to view every situation either as a good one or an opportunity to learn. It may not always be easy, but when I think this way, I usually get something positive out of virtually any situation.

This blog originally appeared on blog.ttisuccessinsights.com.