Friday, April 4, 2008

Facing a Setback

Setbacks are called that because that's exactly what they are. They set you back from the goal or course you had in mind. They set you back and can make it improbable that your goals for a promotion at work, leadership role in church, or doctorate you thought you were cut out for is going to come your way.

Improbable does not mean impossible. Just as setback doesn't mean dead end. Setbacks can come in many different forms, for various different reasons. Some are brought on because we made a poor choice, or a series of poor choices. Some are brought on by outside forces far beyond our control. Analyzing what setbacks we can face isn't really the point here though. In fact, I'll go so far to say that it rarely matters what the setback was. Although I will admit the varying degrees in which they can come does matter in some ways.

What we want to focus on is our reaction to that setback. Here are some things to consider when a setback is thrown your way:

  • Is it worth it? - Sometimes a setback comes our way and we simply need to ask ourselves, "Is this worth it?" It will be natural to think this way initially, but it this is often the time when lesser folks decide it isn't. Remember, a setback isn't a dead end and you are not a lesser person. Maybe you've looked at all the pros and cons and you really do think you can overcome this setback. You can tear down this wall. You can and it won't take much more than some patience, determination, and hard work. If that's the case. If it's truly something you believe in and you can see the light (however far in the distance) at the end of the tunnel, then it might just be worth it.
  • Door of opportunity - Maybe it isn't worth it. If you're in your first or second year of medical school and you've realized that you really cannot stand the sight of blood (I know, I know highly unlikely), maybe you just don't have the passion needed to be a doctor. You realize you not only do not enjoy those long hours studying, you really don't care much about what you're trying to learn. Then possibly a setback that has come in your direction is really an opportunity. Now is your chance! Is it possible you've been putting aside what you really love to do for these other goals that seemed so much more important to you and everyone else? Is it possible you weren't truly passionate about your goal, but it was what you were expected to be doing instead? Maybe this setback is your opportunity. In fact, I'd say if you are reading this right now and you do get queasy at the sight of blood, medical school is probably not for you. This setback, whatever it is, that is standing in the way of your finishing is actually your opportunity.
  • Were you needing a wake up call? - We all need wake up calls from time to time. We get complacent or satisfied. As a result we start settling and the direction of our goals aren't so clear. We think they are, but we are asleep until a setback comes along and wakes us up. This goes back to one of my previous posts about St. Louis Cardinals' pitcher Rick Ankiel. His setback was that the command and accuracy he'd enjoyed for so many years pitching were suddenly gone. He'd enjoyed so much success and accolades along his journey to the major leagues it seemed inconceivable that he was literally throwing it all away right before our eyes. Never mind the hows or whys. The fact was he was facing a setback. He could either continue to toil in the minor leagues beaning and walking opposing batters (most likely), retire from baseball altogether, or set a new course. He chose to use his setback as an opportunity. It was his brutal wake up call. He had to look around and realize that he could hit and was willing to learn a new position. He changed his course, set some new goals, and got to work. He received a wake up call and responded appropriately.
Are you facing a setback? Is it worth it to work through it? Is it your opportunity to try something new and exciting? Is it a chance to set a new course?

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