Dealing With Setbacks

Dealing With Setbacks

My 5-year-old daughter started her skating lessons last week.  She had been eager and excited, having begged me for lessons for months because her best friends know how to skate and it looked like a lot of fun.

Boy, was it ever a rude awakening.  She realized within 10 minutes of her first class that standing up on skates, on ice, was not so easy.  Her feet were not accustomed to the tight laces, the ice is more slippery than she thought, and falling down actually hurt more than she imagined.

I observed her from the sidelines and saw the look of defeat.  As much as the teacher tried to encourage her, she just sat on the ice pouting.  I knew that if she fell a bunch of times, listened to the teacher’s suggestions and corrections, and learn to adjust her stance based on what didn’t work, she would eventually figure it out.  In taking on something new, mistakes are inevitable and to be expected, and mastery requires plenty of correction, adjustments, and practice.

And then it occurred to me.  Sometimes we never learn that lesson.  We are shocked by how unexpectedly hard things are, and we sit in defeat, not even wanting to try, and we complain about how hard the ice is, how uncomfortable the skates are, and how cold the ice rink is.

After the class finished, she told me she didn’t want to take skating anymore.  We ended up having a long chat about what happens when you try new things, how to deal with the frustrations that come with mastering something, and we recalled previous experiences where she mastered a skill after much practice.

And then she said “Mommy so the less time I spend being upset, the more time I get to get better and play, right?”

Brilliant.  Success comes faster when you recognize and learn to manage the frustrations that come with learning.  If you don’t learn a good way of managing disappointments and setbacks, you’re going to end up avoiding new challenges.  And then you are left with experiencing a smaller subset of what business and life offers.  Growth, expansion, success, and confidence come from how well you handle failures and struggles.

I was thrilled that at the second session, my daughter was all smiles (despite falls and everything), and figured out how to stand up without help.  She beamed a proud smile over to the sidelines, and I made a mental note to add this to her success toolbox, ready for her next challenge.



  1. Lovely story.
    I have a mantra I find very useful for dealing with setbacks – “Learn the lesson. Apply the learning. Move on.” Really helps stay out of the wallowing place and keep moving forward instead of staying stuck in the setback.

    • Great mantra Ali! It’s great to be mindful and aware of how much time we spend our life in the wallowing place, because as you said, being there too long means you’re choosing to be stuck in the setback rather than moving forward.

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