10 Ideas How to Handle Setback

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” ~ Thomas A. Edison

  • One of your biggest clients leaves and starts working with your competitor;
  • The new product/service you thought everyone would love falls flat;
  • The new hire who seemed a perfect fit for your company doesn’t work out;
  • Your sales for the quarter are far less than your goals;
  • A pandemic throws your whole business model out the window…

These are just a few examples of the types of setbacks you might encounter in your business.

Setbacks and obstacles in business (and life) are inevitable. How you respond can shut you off or lead you to breakthrough and growth.

At first, we all experience frustration, sadness, disappointment or anger. What you do with those feelings distinguishes winners from losers. How do you reflect on what happened and gain greater self-awareness? How do you think about and learn from what the setback taught you – so you can move forward?

What can you do to recover when you hit a serious setback on your road to business success?

Consider these 10 ways to get over and beyond a business setback:

1. Put it into Perspective

Every setback is an opportunity to re-evaluate your business strategy, and adjust your course. Failure is part of the learning curve to building a successful business. Before going into “the sky is falling” mode, take a step back to assess how significant the predicament is in the bigger picture. Evaluate the impact before jumping into crisis mode.

2. Keep a Positive Attitude

Be kind to yourself. List the good things in your life. Step back and focus on your long-term goals. Do something fun. Connect with positive people. Help somebody else…

3. Keep it Simple

Don’t try to fix everything at once. Instead, do today a little better than yesterday. Take one step at a time. Focus on actions, not results… 

4. Focus on What You Can Control

Once you’ve sized up your problem write down a list of options. These are the steps you can take. The important thing is to focus on what is in your control. Don’t put anything on the list that’s out of your control (e.g. pandemic, regulations, competition…)

5. Determine What Went Wrong and Fix it

Feeling sorry for yourself won’t help the situation. Put your emotions aside, and objectively evaluate the cause of the setback. Immediately write down what you will change to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Make sure you develop a clear plan for what needs to be done differently.

6. Cultivate a Supportive Community

A supportive network is a major asset during a setback, when you may experience loneliness, stress, rejection, anger, loss, and more. To create a strong support system, ask yourself: Who are my go-to people? Where can I be vulnerable without judgment? Whom do I trust? Who will watch my back and give me honest feedback?

7. Take a Break

Get out of the office. Do something fun, go outdoors, take a break from social media and just give your mind a break. It is hard to bounce back if you have nowhere to turn to when you are in pain.

8. Keep Adjusting

Not every business setback needs to be met with a total reinvention or “pivot” of your business plan. Often adjusting smaller things (changing prices, re-negotiating with suppliers, reaching out to clients…) would be all that you need to put your business back on track. Don’t hesitate to test different approaches and tweak until you find the one that gives you the best results.

9. Create Lessons Learned for the Future

Remember, “Failure is success if we learn from it.” For example, if losing a big client gets you to implement a customer loyalty program – that’s a win in the long run. If making a bad hiring choice caused you to improve your qualification, hiring and onboarding of future employees… Again you win in the long run.

10. Don’t Be Too Serious

If there’s ever a time to have a sense of humor, this is it! Do something that will make you laugh. This will clear your mind, even if just temporarily, so that once you do come back to the problem, you can focus on it.

Now It’s YOUR Turn

For five minutes… come up with as many ideas as you can… what can YOU do/recommend to handle a setback?

Let's Brainstorm


Please share your ideas (all of them or just one) in the comment box below… and let’s get WOWing.

Live fully, stay awesome,

Nisandeh Neta

Top Commenters – last 30 Days

Let's Brainstorm


Please share your ideas (all of them or just one) in the comment box below… and let’s get WOWing.

Live fully, stay awesome,

Nisandeh Neta

  1. In a podcast I heard.
    Business is easy, life is hard.( like Ine's husband said )
    Maybe that's not always true but when you’re healthy and your family or loved ones are and nobody is in danger.
    Do all the things everybody said and take it 'easy'

  2. It is not for nothing that a group of people who grew up in a difficult situation reaches the top more easily than people who have experienced little resistance. It is about resilience. Without friction no shine. Being able to deal with setbacks determines whether or not you can become successful.
    Always stick to your mission in any setback. Your path of the mission is not the easiest one, but it is the one that makes life so worth living that you keep going every time.
    If you experience failure as failure, ask yourself whether you were looking for status and prestige.

  3. Take some time to recover emotionally from your setback. Cry, curse, shout whatever it is will take away the sharp ends off your emotions. In this way you you are able to start thinking again.
    Then try to gain a helicopterview: what does this situation tells me? What can or did I learn from it.
    Don't overanalyse the situation, but see what you can do right now to improve the situation.
    Find like-minded people with whom you can spar, share ideas, brainstorm. Whatever is appropriate and possible.
    Remind yourself that succesful people got up once than they fall.

    And I have these sentences to remind me that:
    F.A.I.L. means First Attempt In Learning
    N.O. means Next Opportunity

  4. With a setback (really depends on what kinda) I just do something completely different. I meet with more new people, preferably like-minded people.

    Furthermore, I look at every setback as a lesson. What did I learn from it? My motto always has been: make as many mistakes as fast as possible so you can grow faster.

    Moreover, I turn off all social media, and go to the beach and / or sun to reload my energy.

    And then... back to business!!

  5. If there is something to be learned from the Dutch Railways, it's that you can never communicate enough.

    Communicate that you don't know what went wrong and are looking into it.
    Communicate when you found it.
    Communicate how you will solve the problem.
    Ask for help from other people or even competitors (cooperation is key).
    Offer intermediate solutions.
    Take the costs on you and be open about it. (There was recently a cloud storage company moving their clients data out of Russia free of charge just if they wanted it)
    Communicate afterwards how you will avoid these problems in the future.
    Communicate about how you communicated and ask feedback.

  6. The first thing and hardest is:
    Accept the situation!
    - Stay away from a "blaming attitude"
    - Stay away from " if only I had...."
    It's too late and nothing can be done to change the past.
    From there on it is ok to feel down, angry, sad, dissapointed, and so on... If cursing or hitting a sack helps you...let it all out...
    From there on try to get back on your feet or deal with the situation step by step.
    Don't rush
    Make a (small) plan
    And execute.
    In this process you can use all the suggestions already done😉

  7. 1. Allow myself to be sad about it (cry and curse:)). It’s ok to be sad and hurt.

    2. Don’t take it personal. Easier said than done right! I tend to think I suck so Bina I LOVE your comment that you see it as a way to improve! It’s never personal.

    3. Make a list of 10 things that I can do to prevent it from happening again next time. This gives me a feeling of control- where I tend to become overwhelmed by what goes wrong, I go into what I can do myself to either change the situation or prevent it from happening again.

    4. Call a friend and share. There’s no reason to have to deal with it alone. One of the reasons why it’s so powerful to have a community around me that supports me.

  8. My husband always says: "The situation is hopeless, but not serious" 🙂

    Your lists are already very complete. Not so much to add, but here they are:

    1. Be flexible - Remind yourself you are and act like that.

    2. Respond to the situation quickly (but don't be impulsive) - try to keep or create momentum.

    3. Cry & curse - Give yourself a moment to channel your emotions and disappointment. I can be a great relief.

    1. Dear Ine, love your husband's phrase!

      I try to see a setback, as just a given fact, the way I respond matters most and in the end the setback was sometimes just what I needed to go grow.

  9. One thing I've learned in life... You can't avoid setbacks, part of growth in life are setbacks. In my profession as a fiction author being rejected is part of the process of improving my craft and my end product.

    Here are some ways I've taught myself to get over the setbacks and the numerous rejections:

    1. FOCUS ON THE BRIGHT SIDE - Like the Monty Python song - I ALWAYS look for the bright side of every setback - I ask myself "What good can come from this?"

    2. REALITY CHECK - When there is a setback the first thing I do is a reality check - Did I do EVERYTHING I could have done? If YES - LET IT GO and appreciate what I DID DO. If not - what can I do NOW to change this situation? If NOTHING - LET IT GO and appreciate what I DID DO. If there is - DO IT and appreciate my COURAGE.

    3. WHAT CAN I LEARN - After EVERY rejection - and trust me there are MANY of them - I write down what can I learn from it and what can I improve for the next round of submissions - sometimes, it means rewriting the whole damn book.

    4. CELEBRATE - I celebrate my rejections as it is a proof that, like Elton John sings "I'm still standing" and I don't give up

    5. ASK FOR HELP - When I can't find anymore what can be improved or what is not working with my work - I ask "a little help from my friends" - whether it' another set of eyes to go over my writing to see what am I missing, or ideas to improve it, or just a "pick-me up talk"... This goes a long way

    1. This is so powerful, Bina: "being rejected is part of the process of improving my craft and my end product". I'll write this one down. It can also be reassuring and motivating when you're scared of being rejected.

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