How to Deal With Setbacks and Failures

Post Last Updated: December 12, 2019

When you are stuck, knowing when to push, or when to take a break can be crucial for your long term success. Sometimes pushing through a setback can be a good strategy, while other times taking a break can be good. In this post, I’m going to give you some tips on how to deal with a setback.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working out multiple times a week. Through this time, I’ve been getting stronger and progressing very nicely, but I’ve had a setback.

Last night, I went to do some push-ups, and didn’t warm up enough.

After a set of ten push-ups, I felt a numbness in my chest right at the front of my armpit.

I didn’t know what had happened, but knew my chest workout was done.

After some research online, I determined I’d pulled my pectoralis major, and I should apply ice and rest for a few days to make sure it doesn’t develop into something worse.


Working out multiple times a week has been a huge part of my life this year, and to need to take a break from all things upper body (which is tough since I primarily rock climb) will be tough, but hopefully I can come back even stronger with rest.

Since I’m now resting for the next few days, I figured I’d write about what I’m going to do to rest, recover, and how I’m going to deal with this setback.

In this post, I’m going to discuss five tips for you to apply in your life if you are dealing with a setback.

5 Things to Do to Deal With a Setback

Setbacks are not fun, but with the right strategy and game plan, you can overcome your setback and get around that obstacle.

Below are 5 things you can do to deal with a setback and find success:

  1. Breathe and Relax
  2. Reflect on Your Current Situation
  3. Focus Your Mind on Other Tasks
  4. Understand Progress Takes Time and Setbacks are Inevitable
  5. Distance Yourself from the Problem and Come Back at a Later Time

Let’s dive into each of these in more detail below.

Taking action and living intentionally will lead to success over time. By following the steps above, you can crush this setback and get back on the right path.

1. Breathe and Relax

First, take a deep breath and collect yourself.


Life is full of twists, turns, highs and lows.

I don’t know where I’m going to be tomorrow, and I need to adapt on a daily basis to what I’m given to do my best in the next moment.

Everyone experiences a setback once in a while, and the people who are MOST successful are the ones who can bounce back.

Starting off with getting over your setback, focus on your breathing.

Breathing allows you to slow down, get your bearings, and relax.

Your brain needs air to think and process information! Give your brain what it needs! 🙂

2. Reflect on Your Current Situation

Next, after breathing, reflect on your current situation.

A few questions you could ask yourself are:

  • What was the cause of your setback?
  • Could you have done anything different?
  • Is there anything you can do in the future differently to bring about a better outcome?
  • What’s the best next steps you can take to get back on the path to your goals?

For me, I know the cause of my injury: i didn’t warm up enough and pushed too hard too early in the workout. I could have warmed up more and not been so aggressive.

After I recover, I’ll be more careful with my warm ups, and for the next few days, I’m not going to do any upper body exercises.

For you, listening to your body and listening to those around you who know what they are talking about will be best for moving on in your life.

3. Focus Your Mind on Other Tasks

While it might seem like the best choice in the moment to keep pushing and grinding away at a task, sometimes focusing on some other task can be very beneficial.

Do you ever get your most inspiring thoughts in the shower or when doing other mundane tasks?

Sometimes my best ideas come to me when I’m vacuuming or brushing my teeth!

Focusing your mind on something else that is routine and doesn’t take that much brain power can lead to making a breakthrough and getting over the hump.

Your subconscious brain will keep working in the background, and when you come back to your problem, you’ll be ready to rock!

patience in relationships4. Understand Progress Takes Time and It’s Okay to Take Breaks

As I mentioned above, life is not linear.

However, taking it a step further, progress takes time and it’s okay to take breaks.

What I mean by this is your body and progress actualizes when you rest.

For example, when you workout, you are breaking down your muscles. When you rest, your muscles build back up and you become stronger.

When you are learning, you only get long term retention through repetition and allowing your brain to absorb information over time.

Taking a break and allowing yourself to recover sometimes is the best way to move forward.

5. Distance Yourself From the Problem and Come Back at a Later Time

Do you need a vacation?

As I mentioned in point number three, focusing on other tasks and giving yourself a break can be a great strategy when trying to get past a setback.

But one other thing to consider is literally distancing yourself from a problem and allowing yourself to the space to grow and recoup for another day.

A vacation might be best, but sometimes just going for a walk, going for some exercise, or going out with friends can help you distance yourself from the problem.

For me, this will be hard since my chest is part of me, but if I focus on doing leg exercises, reading, getting out in nature, and spending time with family, I can distance myself from my injury and get back on the path to success.

Get Past This Setback and Get on the Path to Success

Getting past a setback and getting back on the path to success might take a few days or weeks, but you can do it.

I’m upset with my injury right now, but I know if I rest for a few days, I can get back to full strength.

One benefit will be having more time to rest my entire body and give me more time to write, catch up on other tasks, and be with family.

There’s always pros and cons to every situation, and with any setback, being able to take a break, look at the bright side, and move on will be most beneficial.

Hopefully you can get past your setback and get back on the path to achieving your goals.

Readers: what tips do you have for when you need to take a break? How do you deal with setbacks? 

Thanks for reading,