Radwan: How to prepare for, live with and overcome setbacks

Aziz Radwan, Staff Writer

If you read biographies about famous, inspirational, wealthy or successful people, you might believe that those people’s achievements are due to living in favorable environments, which helped them succeed in their lives. Although good luck could have played a part in their success story, you should also realize they had to face a few, if not many, setbacks in their lives. Setbacks are, indeed, part of everyone’s life. They are inevitable, no matter how hard you try to avoid them.

You can be thrown for a loop in your college life by bad grades, sports losses, breakups, fractured friendships, or any other disappointments coming your way. However, it’s necessary to realize mistakes, failures or setbacks are not dead ends. Most successful people overcame low moments before they thrived.  

So, you might ask yourself: If you will experience setbacks during your life, how do you prepare for them?

You can prepare for setbacks by having a mission in your life that is overall larger than any single bummer situation. An ultimate purpose enables you to believe that you can overcome current crises. For example, even if, for any reason, you get a bad grade or fail a course, it does not mean you will never earn your degree. If your relationship ends, you cannot take it as a sign that you will never find another person down the road. 

Therefore, knowing what you want in life is a first step. Achieving your goals requires planning. However, sometimes as you implement plans, things just don’t work out the way you intended. You might sense you’re moving backward from your goals, which is understandable. Nevertheless, you should not be ashamed of yourself because you can still do something about your current circumstances.

First of all, give yourself time to decompress. Next, look back and identify the causes of your current setback. If it is an academic setback, you should determine if it was an overloaded class schedule, inefficient studying habits, poor mental health or other personal factors that contributed to the issue. If you can’t figure this out by yourself, then there is no shame in seeking counseling services.

Once you identify the root causes of your setback, the following step is to implement a new strategy to tackle them. If you want to bounce back from your circumstances, it’s important to put a new plan in place and change your habits. A different outcome requires a different process. 

As soon as you realize things are improving and you are getting back on track, it will be time for you to reflect on your recent experience and what strategies you used to mitigate your own setback. Think of this as a learning experience for future instances.

For instance, Bianca Jeannot, a 2016 graduate from The College of New Rochelle, is an inspiring example of a college student who overcame a major setback. Bianca had to live in homeless shelters for over seven years, since her mother passed away when she was only 18-years-old. At that time, it seemed impossible for her to attend college because she lost her financial aid and also had to take care of her two disabled brothers at home. Despite this, she attended classes and worked up to four jobs at a time. She kept going until she graduated with honors in 2016. 

When she was interviewed by ABC News, she said, “[a]lthough we’ve suffered, and although we’ve gone through a lot, it’s made me who I am, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.” She emphasized that “[i]f I can do it, it means that it’s meant for me.” 

Bianca’s story showcases how a resilient person who faced a severe setback, showed the right attitude and perseverance to overcome it. Her words imply that she has learned a lot from her experience, and she is proud of who she is today. This should be the attitude of anyone facing a setback. Although setbacks are challenging and overwhelming, they should be viewed as an opportunity to learn, grow, build self-esteem and prove resiliency.