How To Deal With Setbacks: 13 High-Achievers Offer Advice

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How To Deal With Setbacks: 13 High-Achievers Explain How They Stay Standing During Life’s Toughest Battles

How do you deal with serious setbacks?

After all, you are bound to get discouraged.

No matter who you are, how confident you feel right now, or how clear everything seems, there will come a day (maybe today!) where everything seems totally fucked.

Maybe your business partner bails on you, maybe you get fired from your job, maybe you get in a big fight with your spouse, or maybe you just feel off for some unknown reason.

But here’s the thing… it’s not just you.

We all get discouraged.

In fact, I talked with 13 high-achievers (many of these people are 6- or 7-figure business owners) and asked them one simple question: “How do you deal with setbacks?”

And you know what none of them said?

“Silly Mike! I don’t!”

They have plenty of setbacks in their life — just as many as the rest of us. It’s not, therefore, the setbacks which define a person’s level of happiness and success, but how we perceive and deal with those setbacks.

Here’s what 13 high-achievers told me about how they perceive, manage, and move forward despite setbacks.

1. Start with ice cream and Netflix. But move on afterwards.

“Every single person goes through challenges, set-backs, disappointments and downright failures. Every single person who has lived and breathed. It’s not a matter of IF you will go through them – it’s about when you will. My ‘deep, philosophical’ advice is this – your choices FOLLOWING set-backs will be what determine who you become and what you will achieve. You can crumble or step up and begin your plan of action. My ‘I’m also a totally normal person with emotions’ advice is this – take a couple hours, cry, eat chocolate ice cream, and binge watch a show on Netflix. Then start my deep, philosophical advice.”

Expert Pic: Rachel Pedersen

— Rachel Pedersen

“The Queen of Social Media” — Founder & CEO of award-winning social media marketing agency The Viral Touch, Founder & CEO of Social Media United. Rachel is a top social media marketer and consultant, worldwide viral sensation, leading authority on story-telling through social media and Facebook ads. You can learn more about her on her website.

2.  Setbacks don’t mean “never.” They just mean “not yet.”

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned when it comes to dealing with setbacks, it’s that it’s not usually a ‘no,’ it’s a ‘not yet.’

It’s easy to get into a negative mindset and think that a setback feels like the end, but I try to nip that catastrophic thinking in the bud by reminding myself that this is just the prologue.

A year ago I froze on stage during my TEDX audition; I completely forgot my words and rushed off stage. But instead of burying my head in a pint of ice cream, I emailed the committee and asked for the video. I shared it the next day and promised that this wasn’t the end of my speaking career, it was just the beginning.

A year later, I’ve spoken internationally in front of thousands of people, and that video? It’s become an inspiring reminder to not give up.”

Expert Pic: Michaela Alexis

— Michaela Alexis

Michaela Alexis is one of the most in-demand speakers on topics related to LinkedIn and personal branding. Her journey started when an article she wrote went viral on LinkedIn. Since then, she has replicated that success, with dozens of articles receiving millions of reads, featured on CNBC, SUCCESS, Buzzfeed, Inc. and more. Follow her on LinkedIn or check out her website.

3. Interrupt the pattern. Learn. And start again with decisive action.

“First, I get my mind right. After a setback, it’s possible that I will feel a bit down, so I do a quick pattern interrupt by exercising or swimming in the pool while listening to an audiobook. Next, I assess what went wrong and what I need to learn to do it right. So, I seek out resources from people who ought to know, people who have been there and done that. I learn my way out of pain. All that’s left to do after that is to start again with decisive action.”

Expert Pic: Jordan Paris— Jordan Paris

Jordan Paris is a 21-year-old author, podcast host, and former college athlete seen in Men’s Health, Yahoo! Finance, Market Watch, and NASDAQ. Jordan’s podcast, Growth Mindset University, is ranked #6 in Apple’s Self-Improvement category, #3 in the Training category, and #5 in the How-To category. The show is also ranked highly in 40+ countries worldwide.

4.  This setback won’t finish you off. None of the others have.

“When it comes to setbacks, whether in life or business I believe we only have one way to look at them that empowers us to move through them gracefully; we may not be at fault for these setbacks but we are responsible for navigating them powerfully to get to the end goal.

Setbacks are only ever as big as the amount of time it takes us to choose to move through them. Some small setbacks can cause us to pause our progress for days, months, or years simply because we allow them to do so. We build them up in our heads as these big bad monsters here to completely destroy us when, in reality, we can take a step back to realize that no obstacle thrown in front of us has YET to destroy us in our entire lives… how self-defeating is it to believe that THIS will be the one that will do us in?”

Expert Pic: Kyree Oliver— Kyree Oliver

Kyree Oliver has spent $4 million on Facebook Ads in the last three years and generated $35 million for his clients. He’s also a well-respected masculinity coach. You can find the waiting list for his upcoming book over here.


5. The way out is through. And it’s never as bad as it seems.

“Setbacks suck. Anyone who tried to spin it for you like ‘adversity is fun’ is full of it. As a high-achiever, though, you’d better get used to it. I’ve found that running 7-figure businesses is all about rolling with the punches. The key is to anticipate the challenges before they become setbacks, before they become a failure. As an entrepreneur, for example, you have to have contingency plans inside your companies. If X goes down, we will do Y. I’m not talking about having a backup plan or not going all in. I’m talking about going so all-in on your dream that you’ve played it like a game of chess. You know if that client doesn’t pay their invoice by Friday you can pull money from _______ to be able to make payroll. If you don’t strategize at all, you get caught with your pants down.

If you’re in the middle of adversity or a setback I have two pieces of advice:

1) 9/10 times for me the way out of the problem has been through it. Early on I wasn’t making enough money in real estate to do more than pay my bills. It’s not that real estate wasn’t profitable it’s that I wasn’t doing it right. The way out of my debt was through what got me there.

2) Nothing is ever as bad or as amazing as it seems. Lose your main client? It’s not the end of the world. Land someone you’ve looked up to for years as a client? They’re just a human being too. This helps you maintain perspective when you’re wanting to jump for joy or trying not to cry when you look in the mirror.”

Expert Pic: Ryan Dossey— Ryan Dossey

Ryan Dossey is the founder of Call Porter and Ballpoint Marketing. He also manages his own real estate business, which has an investment portfolio worth over $9 million.


6. Find what relaxes you, then refresh and reset as needed.

“When facing obstacles or setbacks I typically take a few deep breaths and first think to myself, ‘Why is this happening?’ (logically not emotionally)… My next question is ‘How can I solve this?’ or ‘How can I minimize the chances of this happening again?’ Sometimes when I stand back for a few minutes, breathe deeply, and do something relaxing, I come back refreshed and clear-headed. For me, my go-to when I’m facing business hurdles is a drive by the beach. I feel completely reset and ready to tackle whatever came my way.
Take time to realize what really relaxes you so you can do just that when facing adversity, large or small.”

Expert Pic: Katie Melissa

— Katie Melissa

Katie Melissa is a digital entrepreneur responsible for creating e-commerce businesses generating multiple 6-figures per month. Katie has 260+ students learning how to create profitable drop-shipping stores on the Amazon and Shopify marketplaces. More information on her e-commerce coaching can be found here.

7. Control what you can. Accept what you can’t. Learn from it all.

“I feel like there are two different types of setbacks in life. The first type happens on a daily basis and is where our initial attempt at something doesn’t achieve the desired result. This can be as simple as not finding what we need on the first Google search or more complex, like losing money on an advertising campaign.

For most achievers, including myself, this type of setback doesn’t even register as a setback. It’s just another step in the trial and error process required to succeed at anything in life. I’ve noticed, however, that many of the people in my life get completely derailed by these types of setbacks. They always give up if the first, second, or third attempt doesn’t succeed, and it prevents them from achieving most of the things they want in life.

The second type of setback is the big stuff… the stuff you remember. It’s the type of stuff that takes months or even years to recover from. Could be losing a job, having a business fail, dealing with a major health issue or losing a loved one. I don’t think there’s any right way to deal with these types of setbacks. They are all unique and most will become a permanent part of who we are. For me, it just comes down to learning what I can from them, taking control of the parts I can influence, letting go of the parts I can’t, and trying to focus on what’s important.”

Expert Pic: Jacob Mcmillen

— Jacob Mcmillen

Jacob McMillen is a seasoned freelance writer who spends his spare time helping other writers succeed online. Click here to learn how he went from $15 per article to $15k per month.


8. Setbacks are the stepping stones to your next accomplishment.

“I view everything as a stepping stone. Each experience in my life, each failure, mistake, or something that I learned — prepared me for the next challenge life would have to offer. Giving myself the reality that there are many setbacks, barriers, and challenges to persevere in business. That’s why I really try to only focus on what I can control and learn from what I may not be able to control.”

Expert Pic: Jeremy Miller— Jeremy Miller

Jeremy Miller is a marketing consultant and the co-founder of The StartEdUp Foundation. You can follow him on Twitter to keep up with his inspiring and thought-provoking insights.


9. Take 7 minutes for emotional release. Then be done with it.

“Setbacks. Or should I say: the rocks on the road you’ll build your castle with.

See, I am one of those people you look in the face and can easily think: ‘Woah. She has it all. She is healthy, energetic, always happy and helpful! She is some kinda funny (or so I think) and she travels the world fulltime while doing what she loves! What a life!’

But what you don’t think is about all of the crazy challenges I overcame to get here. Some call these setbacks.

I call them: resilience rocks.

I know I am rock solid when it comes to resilience and staying strong in times of crisis.

I am the one who keeps emotions out, breathes deeply, stands tall and walk confidently into the middle of the tornado.

Sometimes, I loose my mind when things are over, just for the sake of emotional release. I give myself 7 minutes, let it all out, scream, cry, sob, whatever. Then it’s okay. 7 minutes.

See — the reason why setbacks are setbacks for so many of us is because they get the tornado sweep them off their feet, lift them up and smash them on their asses. They loose confidence in themselves when shit hits the fan, but that’s exactly when it should be the strongest! When you need to plant your feet deeply onto the ground and hold your head up.

Setbacks become huge, because we keep holding on to the stories we tell ourselves about them. We keep justifying emotions, we keep explaining to ourselves what happened instead of letting go. And moving on.

So here is my way of using these rocks on the road to resilience, and build your own castle with it while you are at it:

1| Breathe.
2| Work through your emotions (give yourself a time frame, like 5 minutes or 10) then put aside. 
3| Check the facts and ONLY facts – then make decisions. 
4| Stand tall and know all you need for this to pass is inside of you. 
5| Move. No matter what or how. Don’t stand still.
6| Find trusted support. And don’t listen to anyone else.
7| Walk confidently. Keep your head up.

You got this!”

Expert Pic: Monique Lindner

— Monique Lindner

Monique Lindner is a High Performance & Human Optimization Specialist (her website is here). Her 10+ year background in project & time management as well as team leadership for huge corporations like Siemens Enterprise Networks and Apple have created the foundation that she puts into the T.I.M.E. Method – her signature framework. You can follow her on Facebook.

10. Avoid fear. It removes your ability to choose.

“I’m not sure setbacks will ever be easy to deal with, but something I actively try to work on is perspective. It’s easy when you first start (and at times, now!) to agonize over challenges you face. I try to be objective now and look at solutions or choices rather than stay in fear. Fear can feel like removal of choices and feeling stuck. Realizing at any moment I have a choice in how I perceive obstacles empowers me to take actions that move myself and the business forward.”

— Jennifer SpencerExpert Pic: Jennifer Spencer

Jennifer Spencer is the founder of Energent Media, an Á La Carte, month-to-month PR company. She is also a contributor to SUCCESS and Entrepreneur Magazine.


11. You create your reality — so change your paradigm and don’t create setbacks in the first place.

“To me, the question isn’t “how do we deal with setbacks?” It’s “how can I live from a place in which I never experience setbacks?”

After all, prevention is always better than cure.

Let’s break it down. A “setback” is when something doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. So, to experience a setback, you must first create expectations. Then, when life doesn’t match up with your expectations, you must create internal resistance to what already is.

Instead, why not work to change our internal paradigm so that we never experience a setback?

Let me explain. Imagine there are two ways to navigate through life – a map or a compass.

Most people use a map. They create this map in their minds and then journey forward assuming that they know where the trails, water sources, and campgrounds are. In other words, the map is made of assumptions and expectations.

Unfortunately, there is no map to life – the terrain changes constantly. So, if you try to navigate life using a map, inevitably you’ll lose the trail or a mountain will appear in front of you. As a result, you’ll encounter a setback while you go about creating a new set of assumptions and expectations to use as your guide.

Maps are important for objective problem-solving. However, they’re terrible for creating contentment and self-realization.

In my experience, high-performers use a compass in these domains.

When we use a compass to navigate, we decide on the destination, set a bearing and then we focus on only two things: Where we are right now and maintaining the direction we’re headed in. The terrain still changes, but it doesn’t matter – we’re always moving in the direction of our goal.

So how can you let go of your expectations about life while simultaneously strategizing to achieve your personal goals?

Stay present in the here and now, and always accept what is – unconditionally. This is how you empower yourself.

In other words, don’t become emotionally invested in mind-made expectations about the future, and don’t create internal resistance to anything that already is.

When we stay present in the here and now, there are no setbacks. The terrain might change, but the compass adapts in real-time through unconditional acceptance of what already is. We’re simply dealing with one moment at a time while moving in the direction of our goal.

Master this and you’ll never experience another setback in your life – at least, not in the way most people do.”

Expert Pic: Thomas J Law— Thomas J Law

Thomas J Law is a transformation coach for high-performing entrepreneurs. He leads his clients deep into their true potential to create lasting fulfillment, freedom, and abundance.


12. Gratitude is more powerful than any setback.

“Set backs happen to everyone. The important thing is to get perspective on the situation as quickly as possible. I do that by asking myself whether this issue will even matter in 6 months or a year. Most of the time, I will have forgotten about it by then.

I also try to flip the situation into a positive by mentally putting myself a few weeks into the future and saying “Remember when _________? That was so awesome! I’m so grateful because it led to ________. I’m so lucky!” (Remember when I lost that huge client? That was so awesome! If they hadn’t ghosted on us, I never would have gone to the coffee shop that afternoon and met our new best client. I’m so lucky!)

When I’m repeating this scenario to myself, I try to really feel happy and grateful in my body. I stand up and take some deep breaths, maybe even put on some music. I get myself into the physical state of happiness. Is it easy? Not always. But it does get better with practice. And it’s a heck of a lot nicer than dwelling on all the doom and gloom that could happen because of the setback.

Enacting gratitude even when things aren’t going your way helps things turn around so much faster.”

Expert Pic: Julie Ann Eason— Julie Ann Eason

Julie Anne Eason is the author of The Work At Home Success Guide and CEO of Thanet House Books. You can follow here Facebook page or connect with her on LinkedIn.


13. You can decide what a setback means to you.

“Events in our lives have precisely as much meaning as we give them. No event or circumstance can create true and sustained happiness or success. The flip side is also true – no event or circumstance can create true and sustained unhappiness or failure. That perspective is crucial for me when dealing with set backs. Without proper perspective, a single setback can make you feel like the world is ending. I’ll often ask myself questions like ‘Why does this matter?’ ‘How long will it matter for?’ and ‘What is the meaning I want to attach to this?'”

Expert Pic: Kiley Newbold

— Kiley Newbold

Kiley Newbold is the Head of Marketing at Carrot and the founder of Silver Street Marketing, a marketing agency which serves real estate businesses. You can connect with Kiley on LinkedIn.


How Do YOU Deal With Setbacks?

No matter where you’re at in life, no matter how far along you are, no matter how old, young, fat, tall, or small you are, you’re going to experience setbacks. There are going to be in times in your life when you want to quit.

But take courage.

The above 13 high-achievers are going through the same things — they are no different than you! — and you can use their exact same strategies to push through setbacks in your own life.

If you do, you’ll pursue your dreams with passion, nothing will keep you from achieving your goals, and setbacks will simply become a part of your journey — a necessary part.

So hold your head high, take a deep breath, and do something awesome, even if it means dealing with setbacks.

Off ya go.

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Mike Blankenship

Mike is a writer for SUCCESS, AdWeek, and Addicted2Success. He’s been quoted on Forbes and Entrepreneur for his expertise in marketing and personal development. He’s also the owner of Get Your Gusto Back where he helps people reignite their inner fire.

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