Setbacks are a common part of life, and they can be frustrating, disheartening, and even debilitating. Whether it’s an unexpected health issue, a failed project or a broken relationship, setbacks can throw us off balance and make us feel like giving up.

Life is full of surprises, and not all of them are pleasant. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we encounter setbacks that can throw us off course. Whatever the reason, setbacks can be incredibly challenging to navigate, and they can leave us feeling discouraged, overwhelmed, and uncertain about the future. However, setbacks are a natural part of life, and learning to overcome them is essential to personal growth and development.

Recently I experienced a major setback. Ever since I moved to San Diego 23 years ago, I’ve been wanting to get up to Mammoth to ski. Somehow for 23 years, something has always prevented me from going. 2023 was finally going to be the year I would make it up there!  I like to plan and be organized, so when it came to planning our family ski vacation getting into a car accident with my family was not even on my radar.  

The morning of February 21, another winter storm was upon Mammoth. Normally, winter storms means lots of snow and great runs on the ski hill! Unfortunately, the storm was so bad that by noon, Mammoth had closed the entire mountain, leaving only 3 working ski lifts. The wind was too much for my daughter who was just learning how to snowboard, so after lunch my husband picked her up. Being the Canadian I am, I took to the hill and skied out the day with a few of my neighbours. By 3pm only 3 of us remained on the hill and everyone had left to get ready for dinner. After a quick change of clothes we set out in the blizzard to meet our friends for dinner. 

As I was praising our brand new Toyota Highlander for handling the snow so well, we entered the intersection since our light was green. Out of the corner of my eye I saw bright lights heading right for us. It was just like a scene from out of the movies. I quickly turned to the left, blinded by the oncoming lights, as I helplessly watched the out of control car heading right for us. I yelled to my husband, “HE’S GOING TO HIT US!”. Bob stepped on the gas but it was too late. BAM! The oncoming car t-boned the driver’s side rear wheel as it spun our entire vehicle around in the middle of the intersection. Looking back at it now, I realized that if I hadn’t yelled, the car would have t-boned us and struck Bob.

From that second on all our plans changed. All 3 of us suffered differently from this accident, in particular my body did not fare well and it has caused significant setbacks to my body and health. That night we scrambled for a new plan and we were forced not only to abandon our ski week trip but our new car as well. The following morning we stuffed all our luggage and bodies into 3 of our neighbours cars. We had no choice but to leave our crashed car on the side of the road in an empty lot in Mammoth as we fled back to San Diego trying to escape the current storm that was about to come ripping through the Mammoth area. 

40+ days later, our car is still in Mammoth, buried under countless feet of snow and I’m struggling to pick up the pieces of the aftermath of it all. Our lives have been turned upside down and I’m not going to sugar coat it, it’s been a living hell for me and my body.

So, what do you do when the unexpected happens? How do you overcome setbacks and get back on track? It’s important to give yourself some time to grieve after you’ve had a setback but it’s equally important not to stay there any longer than is necessary. Only you know the challenges the setback has cost and God knows what it’ll take to get you through it.

To move forward, it’s important that we explore the mindset you need to have to get through a setback and how using neuroplasticity is the key to overcoming and getting back on track.

Please hear me when I say this: “Setbacks DON’T have to define us.” In fact, they can be opportunities for growth, learning, and resilience. Let’s explore what it takes to overcome setbacks, the mindset you need to have to get through them, and how using neuroplasticity can help you get back on track.

What is a setback?

A setback is an unexpected event or situation that hinders or reverses your progress towards a goal or objective. Setbacks can come in many forms, such as:

  • Accident
  • Injury or illness
  • Failure
  • Loss
  • Rejection
  • Financial difficulties
  • Unforeseen obstacles

Setbacks can be particularly challenging because they can make us feel like we’re not making any progress, or worse, that we’re moving backward. However, setbacks are a natural part of the process, and everyone experiences them at some point (some more than others!)

When you encounter a setback, it’s natural to feel a range of emotions, including disappointment, frustration, anger, sadness and, for some like me, PTSD.

When a setback occurs, it’s essential to take a step back and assess the situation. Rather than giving in to frustration or despair, try to approach the setback as an opportunity to learn and grow. I know this is much easier said than done! It takes a lot of practice and patience.

Here are a few steps you can take to navigate setbacks effectively:

  1. Acknowledge the setback: The first step in overcoming a setback is to accept that it has happened. Acknowledge your disappointment and frustration, but don’t dwell on them any longer than necessary. Instead, focus on what you CAN  control.
  2. Assess the situation: Take a step back and evaluate the setback objectively. Identify what you can do to move past it.
  3. Reframe the setback: Try to see the setback as an opportunity for growth and learning. Ask yourself what you can learn from the experience and how you can use it to improve in the future.
  4. Create a plan: Once you’ve assessed the situation and reframed the setback, create a plan to move forward. Set new goals and develop a strategy to achieve them.

What does it take to overcome when you’ve had a setback?

Overcoming a setback requires resilience, perseverance, and a growth mindset. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when working to overcome setbacks:

  1. Focus on the positive: When setbacks occur, it’s easy to focus on the negative. However, focusing on the positive can help you maintain a growth mindset and stay motivated.
  2. Be patient: Overcoming setbacks takes time. Don’t expect to bounce back immediately. Instead, be patient and focus on making progress one step at a time.
  3. Stay motivated: Setbacks can be demotivating, but it’s important to stay motivated. Set new goals and remind yourself why you started in the first place.
  4. Seek support: Don’t try to overcome setbacks alone. Seek support from a therapist, friends, family, or even a coach. They can provide encouragement, guidance, and perspective.

I don’t know what I would have done without the support of my Flourishing coach, therapist and my doctors during this setback after the car accident. 

What mindset do you need to have to get through a setback?

The mindset you need to overcome a setback is one of resilience, optimism, and growth.  Remember that challenges are opportunities for growth. Instead of avoiding challenges, embrace them and see them as opportunities to learn and improve. It’s hard, sometimes very hard, but embrace challenges, seek feedback, and see failures as opportunities to learn and grow.

With these strategies, you can overcome setbacks and get back on track to success. For me, it’s going to take a while to get back to where I was physically. I have to remind myself that only 5 months ago, I walked the Grand Canyon North Kiabab to South Kaibab in just over 12 hours and now just getting my 10,000 steps a day is challenging. I know it’s possible though! 

After the crash I had to let go of a lot of my goals. I had to let go of a lot of things, but only for now. Initially in the beginning, I thought “Well there’s 2 years of training down the drain and the successful progress I had with my cervical dystonia was back to square one.” I thought and believed that for about a week. As I started to come out of the shock and anger I knew that, although it feels like I’ve stepped back 2 years, I know all was not lost. I know just what I’m capable of doing, I’ve done it before and I’ll do whatever it takes to get me to where I was before the accident and I will be stronger for it.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt in response to experiences. When you encounter a setback, your brain can be rewired to respond differently in the future. By using neuroplasticity, you can train your brain to develop new habits, skills, and behaviors that will help you overcome setbacks and achieve your goals.

A growth mindset is a way of thinking that embraces challenges and believes that intelligence and abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. People with a growth mindset see setbacks as temporary and view failures as opportunities to learn and improve. 

Setbacks are a natural part of life, and learning to overcome them is essential to personal growth and development. By adopting a growth mindset and using neuroplasticity, you can train your brain to respond differently to setbacks and achieve your goals. Remember to visualize success, practice gratitude, take small steps, learn new skills, and seek support when needed.

With these strategies, you can overcome setbacks and get back on track to success.

Until next time,

About the Author

TK is an outlier and exemplifies the definition of a modern day Renaissance woman.  She’s a wife, a mother, a rock climber, has hiked the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim in a day, is dog-mother to a deaf white german shepherd and even a DINGO!

Her army of world-renowned doctors have labeled her as one of the most clinically fascinating people they’ve ever seen. Not only has she survived and overcome seven cryptogenic strokes and a 7=-centimeter DVT, she deals with relentless cervical dystonia, multiple GI disorders, a broken autonomic system perpetually in a state of fight or flight mode, some or all of which is being driven by a undiagnosable autoimmune disease on a daily basis.

TK believes in miracles and looks for joy in all circumstances. She’s tardigrade-tough and tenacious with a never-give-up attitude, has the heart of a lion and a faith that is undeniable and unshakable. Be prepared to laugh and cry as she takes you on an unbelievable journey where she shows you how to thrive instead of just surviving while being sick!

TK is also a Certified Flourishing Life Coach, Entrepreneur, Speaker and is the Founder of Outlier Healing.