How to bounce back from a setback

Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK
12 July 2018

Things don't always go how we expect them to. Setbacks, or failing to meet a specific goal, happen to most of us from time to time. Although they can leave you feeling disappointed, low and deflated, dwelling on it won't do you any favours. There are ways to turn your negative feelings into positives and learn from your experience. Here’s my run down on how to mentally get back on track after a failure or a setback.

Image of a man drinking tea and looking out of the window

Why so surprised?

Are you surprised you haven’t done as well as you thought at meeting your goal? Sometimes we don’t read the signals that things aren’t working until it’s too late – and that’s natural. Other times we can sink into denial and avoid dealing with the real reasons why we gave up on something, or failed.

To avoid being shocked by failure in the future, try to understand why things haven’t gone to plan this time round. Have you not been able to commit enough time to it? Did a life event mean it was put on the back burner? Was there an injury you ignored for a while?

Acknowledging these hurdles might help you to move on more quickly, and avoid setbacks happening again in the future.

Don’t blame the game

Your situation may have treated you badly. Perhaps your sports partner didn’t play fair? Maybe the weather made it hard for you to perform at your best? It’s important to realise that nothing can be gained from blaming the situation. The springboard to success is what sets us back. The only thing that can be controlled is understanding what led to the outcome and to learn from these mistakes.

Take it easy on yourself

You’ve reflected on what’s happened, which is great for moving forward, but don’t be too hard on yourself. Setbacks happen to all of us and accepting failure is not a bad thing, as it takes us away from the idea of being perfect.

When you suffer a setback, try the following.


What’s the feedback?

Setbacks can leave you a little mentally wounded, and asking for feedback takes courage. Getting a second opinion on your situation from a friend, family member or colleague may give you a better understanding of your setback. It can also be a motivator to pick yourself up.

Don’t get bogged down on the past – move forward

Try and avoid just focusing on your failure and what went wrong. Instead, think about what you need to do to succeed. What’s the next step to losing that next pound of weight, for example, or should you try something new? Make that change and move forward. It’s these experiences that shape us into winners.




If you’re worried about your mental health, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. If you’re covered by your health insurance, you’ll be able to get mental health advice and support usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.

Pablo Vandenabeele
Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK

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