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4 ways to get back on track after a setback

April 6, 2020

When you’re making big plans to improve your life, either forming new habits or dropping bad ones, it’s important to remember that experiencing failure is almost certain. This gap between a hopeful intention and the frustrating reality is part of being human, but so is the capacity for change. Remember that setbacks are completely normal and should not be an excuse to give up on something you want for yourself. Pull your focus to getting yourself back on track–and here are four strategies that can help.

Figure out what went wrong

Setbacks are often caused by a lack of preparation or resources. For example, your goal is to cook healthy meals but you come home from work to an empty fridge and bare cupboards. While ordering pizza is a setback, what really went wrong was the lack of planning. Another possibility is your goals were simply unrealistic and you will need to reflect to see where you should adjust expectations. Think critically about why this setback happened and what you can learn from it, then use these insights to set yourself up for success.

Make a new plan

By now, you have to accept that wanting to accomplish your goal badly (or even very badly!) is not going to be enough. Pair your sheer determination with some savvy strategizing and a thoughtful new plan. Make specific, realistic goals that take into account your current situation while pushing yourself forward. Being specific is important. Do you want to write more? Set aside time slots during the week that can be dedicated to writing and aim for a specific word count for each session.   

Focus on your “Why”

As yourself why accomplishing this goal matters for you. Why is it worth the effort? Why should this be a priority? Being able to focus on that bigger picture will help you get back in the right mindset, allowing you to tackle this goal with energy. Keeping your “Why” at the forefront of your mind will help you develop the resilience you need to overcome the next challenge. And the one after that. Even if a setback happens.

Look for Support and Resources

Humans are social creatures and it can be very powerful to have a trusted person holding you accountable or offering encouragement and advice. If you don’t have a friend or family member that can serve this role for you, look for support and resources somewhere else. It can be a support group, an online forum or a YouTube channel. It’s very helpful to get out of your own head and commune with others that can offer new approaches or insight that will nudge you along in the right direction.

And what will happen during your next setback? Begin again, remembering why this matters and how you can make it happen for yourself. It’s never too late and you’ll be able to make progress with patience, intention, and effort.


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