How to Overcome Setbacks

Everyone has a setback now and then. Some can be major. Some can be minor.

Recently, my friend told me that she did not get into a graduate program she applied to. She felt very sad, discouraged, and many other mixed emotions. This is something she has been working so hard for so it broke her heart (and mine) to hear the bad news. I didn’t know what else I could do to make her feel better or emotionally support her, so I just tried to help her talk it out and think “what’s next?”.

In light of this event, I started wondering how would one properly deal with a setback. I understand everyone’s different and have different ways of coping. However, there are some basic steps we could all follow to alleviate some of the initial disappointment.

Acknowledge it.

If we recognize the problem and accept it, it will make our lives a whole lot easier. Cry and wallow, if you must, but don’t let it be a barrier to your future. This is a beginning of a transformation.

Eliminate blame.

Sometimes things happen for a reason, and sometimes for no reason at all. It’s part of life. It won’t do any good to blame yourself or others, or dwell on the fact that this happened.


I think this is easier said that done, but if you are able to, it works wonders. It comes easier for me because I am such a “super busy” person. Stress affects me easily, so I have learned to only focus on one thing at a time.


Once you get your emotions in check, think about what you can do now and what your next steps should be. My friend said she wanted to cry. I encouraged her to and said “Cry and be sad today to get it out of your system. You will feel better”.

Give yourself time (while thinking ahead).

Pause for a moment and look at the big picture. My friend won’t be starting school in the Spring semester as she had planned, but she was already looking for jobs anyway. This could be a good time to find a full time job and grow in experience. This does not mean she will give up on grad school. It just means she will apply for the Fall semester and apply to other schools too as back up. Give yourself time by doing things you love. Access your spirituality. Binge watch Netflix. Go on a quick getaway.

Notice the Silver Lining.

Now that my friend is applying for the Fall semester, she actually have a chance of getting financial aid (Spring admissions do not receive anything for this particular school she’s applying to). Also, if she starts working full time in the career field of her major, her work might fund her school too. Maybe having this minor setback was a blessing in disguise.

Life is a mystery. Even though your heart is set on a path, life tends to send you on a different path to reach your end goal. I feel that it’s really important to have a goal, but be open to several routes to get there. Setbacks are not failures. They’re a detour. Whatever route you’re on, don’t let setbacks stop you. Just keep swimming!

P.S. Shout out to my wonderful friend who’s always been there for me.  ❤

About Christine

Peace Corps Volunteer in the Kingdom of Wonder (2017-2019)
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