Why You Need Setbacks

For people with big dreams and clear goals, roadblocks along the way can be very frustrating. But it's only through these setbacks that we can truly be opened to new possibilities.


When you're working towards a goal, roadblocks along the way can be very frustrating.  They pull you away from your ‘real’ work and demand so much precious time and energy.  With this distraction you can lose focus, then have to work even harder just to get back to where you started.

There is another way though.  Instead of struggling against setbacks, greater rewards can be gained from using them to your advantage.  Valuable opportunities are embedded in your problems, if you can put aside your frustration long enough to see them.  When you do this, your progress will be far beyond your initial expectations.

Here are three simple steps to open your eyes and mind so you see new opportunities in old problems:

1.            Recognise your reaction to roadblocks

How do you react when things do not go the way you planned?  Do you get angry?  Find someone to blame?  Fight the urge to quit?  Or get even more determined to succeed?  Regardless of which (or how many) reactions you experience, most important is which you choose to act upon.  Resist the impulse to revert to old habits when you are confronted with a problem.  Instead, decide to consciously choose a positive, constructive frame of mind.  Even if you do not know exactly what to do yet, you can choose an approach that will serve you well in the long-term.  For example, an older worker who is made redundant could react by feeling depressed, angry or victimised.  Or they could now see an opportunity to create the future they have always wanted.  They may choose to pursue a long-held passion, start their own business or spend more time with their family. 

2.            Check your vision

When you are forging a path towards a goal, it is not uncommon for your vision to narrow.  That singular focus can keep you motivated but it can also blind you to new ideas, excellent innovations and influential people.  The path to your goal is not a one-track, linear process.  A problem you might consider as a huge step backwards could actually be a springboard to exciting business opportunities.  Setbacks compel you to look for new ways to achieve your goals.  They can unleash your creativity and encourage you to consider all options, from multiple perspectives.   Actioning just one of these options could generate significant returns and supercharge your progress. For example, the resignation of a key senior staff member could prompt a revamp of your business structure, resulting in greater efficiency with lower costs.  A failed product can also trigger the development of a higher quality product, better production processes and a new customer base.

3.            Acknowledge the learnings

Sometimes there are no immediate benefits to be found in a setback.  They just create so much hassle that you can barely get back to normal, let alone find any extra opportunities.  While you may not gain any tangible benefits in the short-term however, you might identify some useful long-term learnings.  It sounds simple, but when you are focused on a pre-determined path to an outcome, busy and stressed, these everyday lessons could be lost to you. For example, being confronted with a complicated, expensive computer problem could motivate you to rapidly improve your technological skills.  With these skills, you could prevent future IT problems, negotiate effectively with IT consultants and implement new IT applications that save you time and money. Other valuable learnings may be what not to do when employing staff, how to structure your schedule for maximum efficiency, and which tasks you are better off outsourcing than tackling yourself. 

Setbacks can be draining, costly and frustrating.  They can also be a source of opportunity and a driver of innovation and growth.  Whether setbacks have a beneficial or detrimental impact on your business depends on how you approach them.  When you manage your reactions, maintain a broad vision and actively seek learnings from setbacks, you can discover valuable opportunities with potential for astounding achievements.  These opportunities are waiting for you now, in every future problem you are fortunate enough to encounter.