What To Do When Setbacks Happen

Jun 5, 2019, Written by Sue Miley

setbacks happen

Setbacks happen, and in some strange way they usually take us by surprise.  I guess that is part of the definition.  If we have a setback, we must have been moving forward.  The faster our positive traction, the more jarring the setback.

Losing a big customer can feel like starting over.

An employee of talent and character feels impossible to replace.

A quality recall on a product pounds that last nail into a coffin.

Tiny or large seems objective, my humongous may be another person’s miniscule.  It is based on perspective.  Small business owners have to build perspective like a wrestler builds muscle.  It takes practice…exercise.  And if we are honest, no one ever wants to practice handling setbacks.

But if you have been in business for any measurable time, you know they are inevitable.

Setbacks happen.

Learning to handle them better not only produces fruit in our psyche- it also can significantly impact our next steps.  Which in turn may actually define the timeline and the enormity of the situation.  So if they are going to happen, we may as well build up our “perspective” muscles so we can weather through these trials with grace…and minimize their impact.

What To Do When Setbacks Happen

When setbacks happen…

Step outside of your own shoes for a moment.  Actually, pretend this was happening to a friend or colleague.  What would you tell them?

Now you can replace that one big customer with several smaller growing customers and have a healthier business over time.

And you aren’t just saying it.  You believe it.  At least you do for your friend.  Why are we harder on ourselves than others? Why is our scale of disastrous wide and deep when something happens to us, yet barely noticeable for our neighbor?

For once, tell yourself what you would tell someone else in the same situation….and believe it.

When setbacks happen…

Get it out.  Trying to pretend you aren’t heartbroken, crushed, or scared out of your mind only fools the outside world.  And usually only temporarily.   The more we hold things in, the more our emotions and thoughts are bottled up.  At least for a short time.  Soon they are expressing themselves in other ways. 

It’s okay to be upset.  It is actually healthy to feel your fears.  It is even okay to call out to God in despair.  It just doesn’t work if we stay in turmoil.  Wallowing in discouragement is a reasonable response to major setbacks, but if we stay there, it will continue to affect our future too.  That would turn a mere setback into a tragedy.

Let it out and move on.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

When setbacks happen…

We need God.  We do.  Don’t give me the “God helps those who help themselves” line that is actually not in the Bible.  God helps those who lean on Him.  God helps those who turn to Him.  Yes, part of that process may be to step out in faith or at least trust Him enough to keep moving forward. But God wants us to depend on Him…well…for everything.

And thankfully, we have an incredible Savior who we can turn to for everything.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Psalm 46:1-3

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Exodus 33:14

When setbacks happen…

Seek wise counsel.  Inevitably we may not be as clear-headed as usual in the face of a real setback.  You may truly need legal help, financial advice or some other technical wisdom to solve a problem.  You may need a friend or coach to encourage you and help you with perspective.  And as mentioned, we definitely need Jesus. 

In so many instances setbacks cause the pendulum to swing, creating more carnage in our wake.  If we seek wise counsel it provides guidance for a correction that is fitting of the problem. 

When setbacks happen…

Keep moving forward.  Sometimes we just need a minute…a minute for anger…a minute for grief…a minute to pray…a minute for peace.  Then we get back on track and move forward. 

We may have to buckle down and minimize expenses while we seek growth and new customers.  We may have to work more hours and rally the troops if we lose a key player.  We may even have to take a loss financially that seems unfair.

But if we want to succeed long-term, we need to press on.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Hebrews 12:1 

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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