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Dealing With Setbacks & Hardship [Lessons & Examples]

Dealing With Setbacks & Hardship [Lessons & Examples]

How can you deal with setbacks, hardship and disappointments? How can you handle them and get through the difficult time? Here you will find examples, lessons and quotes to deal with this.

Everyone faces setbacks: how  do you deal with them?

Life will never be without its problems. Striving for a trouble-free life is an illusion . The rare trouble-free periods will be very short, at least if you aim for trouble-free periods.

Nobody is skipped. One gets them a bit worse than the other, but everyone gets setbacks. Maybe you have disappointment in love, financially, you are disappointed in other people or maybe you get setback after setback and even become depressed. For example, due to setbacks or tension at work.

The question now becomes: how  do you deal with setbacks? How can you process them and how can you deal with them positively?

Difficulties are inherent in life. Everyone has to deal with health problems, everyone has to deal with stress … It doesn’t matter what comes, but how you deal with it.

Setbacks make you stronger: problems make us grow

deframing comeback

In Asia exactly the same word is used for problem and opportunity. There are no problems, just opportunities. Difficulties are a test that only makes your soul stronger. They cut you into a diamond. They prune you so that you grow stronger.

The shrubs that are pruned the most are the furthest.

It’s a problem not to have any more problems. Problems make us grow.

Confusion always comes before insight: clarity and understanding comes after confusion.

No rainbow without a storm.

Confusion means that you have almost understood. If you understood everything immediately, you learned nothing and wasted your time and money.

It may be true: the setback was inevitable, you had not counted on it and you had not earned it. However, you will eventually discover that it did help you grow.

Doubt is the beginning of wisdom.
– Aristotle

All things are difficult before they are easy.
– Thomas Fuller

Character cannot be developed easily and calmly. Only through experience and trial will your soul be strengthened, your vision clear, your ambition stimulated and success achieved.
Helen Keller

Setback is the first path to truth.
Lord Byron

You must first take a step back to make a leap forward.
– French saying

To be the best, you must be able to handle the worst.
– Wilson Kanadi

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
– Frederick Douglass

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.
– Arnold Schwarzenegger

Check out one of your problems. Maybe it’s actually an opportunity to communicate better, ask for help, try something new, or maybe it’s an opportunity to be honest, authentic, and more open, or maybe it’s an opportunity for surrender, pray, heal and miracles.

Challenges and difficulties are the blazing heat, the fire that breaks us open to receive the gifts, talents, and abilities that are within us.
– Michael Beckwith

Nothing is thrown at you except nutrient-rich fertilizer. It may smell bad at first, making it tempting to run away. … The scent of your struggle is the scent of life, not death, and does not indicate that you have failed, but that you are living intensely. You have feeling and you feel everything!
– Jeff Foster, from ‘The Free Fall in Life’

This also applies to simple situations in everyday life. For example when a group is learning something in a training. If the group finds it difficult, the trainer can emphasize that the growth takes place outside the comfort zone. So, now that the going gets tough, the group is probably starting to really learn something.

The growth takes place outside the comfort zone.

Every wound is a womb

how to deal with adversity

You become incredibly powerful through your setbacks. By cutting its branches, you allow the tree to grow faster.

Sometimes great gifts are not wrapped so well.

Are you experiencing tension, pain, sadness and / or setbacks at this point in your life? That does not  mean that your life is going in the wrong direction, that you are broken, that you have a long way to go to awakening or that you have failed in your spiritual journey and / or as a human being. This situation could just be the healing in an unexpected and original way.

Due to the setbacks, old ego structures, old ‘I-thoughts’ can finally be released and dissolved. These illusions have to die and it hurts, but they are just illusions. However, you are guaranteed to get out.

No sweet without sweat .
– Kashmiri saying

Our hopes and dreams of ‘how it should be’ sometimes have to burn to ashes in the seemingly merciless – but ultimately the most gracious bonfire of the here-and-now.
– Jeff Foster, from ‘The Free Fall in Life’, free translation.

The caterpillar thinks its world is falling apart, but it is just becoming a butterfly!
– Michael Pilarczyk

Prosperity is a good teacher, adversity an even better one.
– William Hazlitt

You are a miracle because you have survived your worst setbacks. This allows you to lift people to their highest places.

Is something painful? Then you know it has to be done.

Setbacks give you a unique opportunity to discover the resilience of your soul. You are almost always less vulnerable when you have overcome a setback.

To have a breakthrough, you have to break something.

Because of such a setback you have developed the ability to cope with new setbacks. You will also see that the setback, the headwind, you experienced along the way, was important for your journey.

“I don’t want to die without any scars.”
– Tyler Durden, Fight Club

“Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.”
– Malcolm S. Forbes

“Either we make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”
– Carlos Castenada

“Maybe our dreams are there to fall apart, and our plans to fall apart. Maybe all of this is one big invitation to wake up from the illusion of control and embrace what is there with all your heart. Maybe. is this a call for a deep embrace of this universe in all its bliss and pain and bittersweet glory. Wanting to be human and truly divine. Perhaps destruction contains the seeds for breakthrough . Perhaps our lives cannot go ‘wrong’ at all. ”
– Jeff Foster, from ‘The Free of Life’

Problems and challenges need to be solved

dealing with disappointments tips

Do you have any problems? Don’t get stuck with just complaining. Solve them. Feel what is not right and take it.

This leads to a rich life. Is something getting difficult? Either you go ahead and go for it, or  you don’t (let go). Complaining is not a valid option. This is the principle of being proactive in life. You then know how to solve problems and challenges.

Our greatest victory is not that we never fall, but that we keep getting up when we fall.
– Confucius

Man is not made for defeat. A human can be destroyed but a human cannot be defeated.
– Ernest Hemingway

Problems are not stop signs, they are guides.
– Robert H. Schuller

The ultimate yardstick for man is not where he / she stands in moments of comfort and ease, but where he stands in times of challenges and trials. … This is no time for apathy. This is a time for strong and positive action.
– Martin Luther King Jr.

When the light in your life goes out … turn on a new match. Can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel? Just light a fire.

Success is one more time getting up than falling over. The road to success is always under construction.

Setbacks and disappointments? Be proactive and flexible

Proactive behavior means solving what you can solve. That’s what the previous section was about. But what if it’s impossible to fix something because it’s not in your reach? Then you will have to accept it . This is an act of flexibility.

“And if that doesn’t work?” “Then you make up another way.”
“And if that doesn’t work?” “Then you make up another way.”
“And if that doesn’t work?” “Then you make up another way.”
“And if that doesn’t work?” “So it will always work.”
– Lil ‘little (rapper) in an anecdote by Michael Pilarczyk

Proactive and flexible behavior are closely related. It means accepting what you cannot change and addressing what you can change.

RU Harby found a vein of gold, marked the spot, raised money to buy machinery, returned to the vein … which appeared to be gone. Even after a long search, he could not find it again. So he let it go and sold his machinery back to a merchant.

As it turned out, the trader took it out and suddenly found the same vein of gold again. It turned out to have shifted only a meter. The trader became very rich with it.

When RU Harby heard about this, he didn’t blame anyone but went straight to a new plan, because that was all he could do. He made a promise to himself that he would become the most successful insurance salesman ever. And he became. He learned how important it is to pick yourself up in the face of setbacks. The special thing was: he sold most of the insurance after people had said no.

From ‘Think & Grow Rich’

After a storm you see sturdy trees that have been blown down. How is it possible that they have been blown over while the much weaker blades of grass and plants are still there? Flexibility…

Make me a flexible plant in the meadows of Your grace that the gentle wind of Your will may touch and bend me as it pleases You, in such a way that my movement and my stillness may be wholly guided by You.
– Bahá’u’lláh

Are you injured? Lick your wounds, get up and walk. Because life will injure you again and again and again and again. Life is about healing. You cannot let go of that responsibility. It sounds hard, but life can be very hard sometimes.

And meanwhile have compassion for your pain, disappointments and setbacks

Problems are teachers, but you don’t have to have an answer for everything and always look for an underlying lesson. Sometimes it just sucks.

Compassion for yourself means that you allow all your pain, disappointments and setbacks to express themselves. You embrace everything you feel with love. Here you can read exactly how to practice self-compassion.

This too will pass.

There is nothing wrong with failure … Have you fallen? Winners get up every time

There are two important points to make:

The first point: there is nothing wrong with failure.  Don’t be afraid to fail, because there is nothing wrong with failure. You don’t have to be immune to suffering and you don’t have to be the enlightened guru or spiritual warrior who is peaceful, awakened, strong, and evolved. In fact, you have to fail to become successful.

Michael Jordan is without a doubt the greatest basketball player of all time, but we only see the success. He has since missed 9,000 shots in professional matches during his lifetime. And that would have been necessary to eventually become the best basketball splint player ever. Are those 9,000 missed shots making him a failure? No. We all ‘fail’. It’s okay.

The second point: always get up.  Let life knock you off your pedestal over and over again. It is then important that you get up again and show resilience . Time after time.

It’s not okay to stay down when you fall. Anyone who stays on the ground is a loser. Winners get up every time , even if that has to be done 9,000 times. You always get up again. That’s a winner! Don’t be afraid of losing. Give everything you have.
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. What really counts is the courage to keep going.
– Winston Churchill

Success is how high you bounce back when you hit the bottom.
– George S. Patton

Success is going for failure without losing enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchill

When you don’t give up, you cannot fail.
– Adrian Peterson, Amerikaanse rugbyspeler

Also read the article: there is no failure, only feedback.

There is no such thing as failure, there is only feedback – Learn from (‘your’) ‘mistakes’

How do you deal with those difficulties and setbacks? There is no ready answer I have for you. Perhaps that is the life lesson you have to discover for yourself.

Many setbacks and disappointments have caused others and are not our fault. As an NLP person, however, I still take the responsibility myself: that not only means that I look for the ‘blame’ in myself, but it mainly means that I learn the lessons from the situation proactively and flexibly so that I do better next time.

If you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
– Dalai Lama

Never waste a good crisis.
– Winston Churchill

There is no such thing as failure, there is only feedback. That feedback contains great opportunities, which sometimes masquerade as setbacks. More about this principle can be found in this article about making mistakes and in the article about the 16 NLP principles.

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”
– Oscar Wilde

Dealing with setbacks? Determine the meaning yourself (examples!)

life lessons setback

Take a look at the examples of setbacks below:

  • Someone gets two accidents in quick succession. One gives the meaning that God doesn’t care about you, the other gives it the meaning that it is a valuable lesson that he should be more careful.
  • A boss who doesn’t give you time and attention? That could mean that he doesn’t like you or that he trusts you.
  • If your other half doesn’t call, it could mean that the romance is cooling off or that the other half is simply busy.
  • Losing your lipstick means panic or you have to buy more.
  • A speed ticket could mean that the world is out to get you or that you have to slow down.
  • A failed application could mean that you missed something or that something much better is in store for you

You see? Ultimately you can determine the meaning yourself. In fact, you will have to make the meaning of your entire life yourself. It would be something if another person or situation imposes a meaning on you. That’s the opposite of proactive: reactive.

The internal is stronger than the external. How you respond to your circumstances is more important than the circumstances themselves. Every obstacle turns into an opportunity for growth if I change my perspective.

Meaning is not found in things, but in what you make of things . So the meaning of life is a choice you make, not just once, but any time of the day.

This is huge! When you give new meaning to something, it changes everything. Fear is not in things, it is only in the meaning you give to things. Suffering is not in things, only in the meaning you give to things.

The meaning of life is not a quest, but a choice.
– Victor Frankl and his cousin Freddie

Perhaps the setback has been part of a synchronicity

synchronicity in case of problems

I wanted to become a physiotherapist, but I was not allowed to participate in the course because I did not have math in upper secondary school. Thank God I didn’t become a physiotherapist!

When God closes a door, He opens a window. And sometimes the window is bigger than the door. And sometimes God opens three windows!

At the time, I ‘had to’ study marketing, because it was one of the few bachelor’s programs where you could be admitted without mathematics. On the day I graduated, the penny dropped for me: I entered the study with which I can experience the most freedom and happiness!

Everything you have ever experienced happened only to support you. There is never anything wrong with you. Everything is always just right with who you are today.

And it is not always fun. It hurts when the door is closed. Inevitably, we will also encounter our deepest fears and darkest shadows. But eventually we learn that through our deepest sorrow we can make an intelligent movement towards the many windows that are open.

Opportunities are rarely labeled.
– Claude Maxwell MacDonald, 19th century British diplomat

But aha! Disasters have their uses; And life may be too sunny.
– Charles Stuart Calverley, 19th century English poet

And yes, for many things we don’t know why they happen. And we cannot know that either. Let the unsolved mystery remain unsolved.

Life breaks you open, destroys your dreams, burns your certainty … You tremble with fear. You call for help.

And then, for the first time, you really feel alive. Unprotected, yet completely safe. Finally free. Finally free.

It destroys what you thought you were, but never touches the One that you are.


It is devastating but it does not capture anyone.

Destroy all the things you thought were yours before you can blink.

It takes away your pride and it crushes your dignity.

Her specialty? Ending dreams.

She has harsh methods, but loving intentions.

She just wants to wake you up.

And look at her beautiful creation through your eyes.

– Jeff Foster, from ‘The Free Fall of Life’, free translation

There will always be a solution. You’ll laugh about it in a week. And even more so in a year. Live from trust . Always have faith. In yourself, In the universe that guides us, will always help us and wants the best for us. Have faith that it will be okay.

Provided that we ourselves are pure, honest, sincere, grateful, creative, grateful and positive and take action and work hard for it … Then we always  end up with the right things.

Practice gratitude

gratitude in case of problems

Gratitude helps to put setbacks into perspective and to make them more bearable. Embrace life, with its ups and downs, and make the most of even the smallest pleasures in life, such as a flower or a cup of coffee.

In times of adversity, say Thank you, life. Thank you, God. Thank you, Divine self. Thank you for this special experience, because I know it will not be long before I see the special gift that has unfolded in this physical event.
– Neale Donald Walsch

In addition, take advantage of your pain by using it as fuel to motivate yourself to achieve great things. The well-known principle is: Problems often lead to great success. If there is a need, you have to. Use this. We call this the pain-pleasure principle, or leverage.

Believe in the grace of non-duality

Have you ever heard of non-duality? It means ‘unity’ or ‘no difference’ and it is a very beautiful way of living life.

If you don’t fall, you don’t know what it’s like to get up.

Non-duality also states that a mountain cannot be a mountain if it has no valley aspects. So the valley aspects of life are needed . A seed must remain underground in order to grow. It is dark and ‘dirty’ there, right underground, but the seed needs that dark to grow.

While the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.
Helen Keller

It is during the darkest moments in our lives that we must focus to see the light.
– Aristotle

Happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
– Matthew 5: 3-10

The stars shine brightest in the darkest darkness.
– Henry David Thoreau

You are closer than you think now – especially when you seem to be far away. The farther you get from the path, the closer you actually are to getting off the wrong path and diving into the right one.

The dark is a birthing process. To find your light, you must first wander through the shadows of your ego.
– Carl Jung

Happiness can arise when you accept the valleys and see  them as gifts because they are also part of the peaks in an invisible way. The good moments in our life are worthless if we cannot “get there” through challenges and difficulties.

You can only become as happy as the degree to which you are also willing to be sad.

There was a period when Superman was considered super boring. That was a time when the writers made him too strong and he had no setbacks.

Life also consists of seasons. That is the case with everything. Sometimes things go well, sometimes less well. Embrace the season you are in and trust that better times are coming. Enjoy the moments when you have setbacks – or really no inspiration, energy or insights.

Read more about non-duality here.

Use your setbacks to inspire others

Your deepest lows, your most severe shit, become what you excel in and with which you inspire others. The best teachers are the ones who have endured the most pain.

Shit makes the flowers not just grow, but it makes them stand out extra.
– Onbekend

Thanks to your setbacks, you can be of tremendous value to others in need. You can now help them thanks to your experience and new powers.

Defeat should never be a source of discouragement, but a fresh stimulus.
– Robert South

Your setbacks have – if all goes well – been a thing of the past. Tomorrow you will be clean again and you can share the valuable lessons with your environment.

Let’s close with a quote from Jelle Hermus

There will always be problems. Feel gratitude that you don’t live below the poverty line in a Third World country. Because if you don’t feel that gratitude, you will be much more unhappy than people living below the poverty line in a third world country.

You cannot live without problems, but you can provide better and better problems. Arguing with your partner about which movie or vacation spot to choose is a better problem to have than flying dishes. Work to experience better problems. Wow what a luxury! A discussion about our holiday destination is our biggest problem at the moment.
– Jelle Hermus

To your success!

About The Author


Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!