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Have Setbacks Helped You Grow?

Progress is not a straight line. I was told it wouldn’t be. I was told that it would take 18-24 months to possibly get my incurable symptoms into some sort of “remission.” I was shown graphs that depicted a general upward trajectory of healing that would feature several dips and downward spikes along the way.

When the first setback occurred within weeks of beginning my healing protocol, I was ready for it. I expected it. I suffered through months of pain without losing focus. I never took my eye off of that distant prize of wellness.

When it happened again six months later, I wasn’t ready for it. I was in physical pain, and I was frustrated. I had been and continued to be diligent about my healing protocol, so this setback was unfair.

While in the throes of my setback, I witnessed the dips and downward spikes going on in other’s lives, as well. For instance, I walked next to a small business owner-client navigating his own setback – the departure of an employee-friend he viewed as a “partner” in his growing business. He was saddened by their close relationship unraveling the way it had, and he was worried about the impact to his business. Also, I was working with an executive faced with a career setback. She had been teed up to assume a significant promotion, but the company had recently undergone substantial changes and the role had become something in which she was no longer interested. She wouldn’t be able to go forward, but she couldn’t stay where she was.

Setbacks, by nature, seem unfair, and they are usually unexpected even after we have repeatedly been taught that they are a normal feature of living our lives and growing as people of character and resilience. For example, philosophers, like Seneca, have given us insights for addressing setbacks. Mental health professionals offer us helpful advice for coping with life’s setbacks. Leaders advise us on how to recover from business setbacks. Financial experts offer us hope for overcoming financial setbacks. And, the list goes on. Nonetheless, each of us is caught off guard by the setbacks we experience when they first arise.

Let this blog post serve as a friendly reminder that life can be difficult at times, and setbacks are to be expected. Keep in mind that once we get over our initial shock and surprise, we can get to work on addressing the issues at hand and harvesting the lessons from those experiences (sometimes a wise friend, coach, or counselor can be a helpful ally in maximizing those development opportunities!).

Look back over 2021 and consider the setbacks you have experienced or witnessed throughout the year. How were those setbacks overcome? What did you learn from them? How did your character evolve from those experiences? What were the blessings those setbacks left behind?

For me, my most recent health setback left me with the blessing of a more evolved, actionable perception of self-care and a more realistic understanding of my healing journey.

I invite each of us to start 2022 clear-headed, remembering that progress does not occur in a straight line, and there will continue to be setbacks. Those moments of struggle, though, will undoubtedly make our many achievements that much more joyous!

Blessings for a healthy, happy, and successful new year!

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