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Don't Let A Setback, Set You Back

Thank you for taking a moment to read my leadership blog. For subscribers, welcome back! For new readers, welcome, and I hope this release intrigues you to read the older monthly blogs. This month's leadership blog will be a little different. While questions to challenge you as a leader still exist, I will be more transparent about my struggle with this topic. Amazingly, some of us can press through setbacks or disappointments, while others are paralyzed, demotivated, or ready to give up. Why? Why don't we expect or even embrace setbacks?

As leaders, we may have a platform to use our voice for those who cannot. On January 17, 2022, the United States celebrated the ninety-third birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Imagine how often Dr. King faced setbacks in his quest for equality. Yet, he never lost sight of his dream. As a leader, what is your dream? How can you ensure that your setbacks do not set you back?

Ironically, in the same week Dr. King's birthday was celebrated, another setback to his dream was encountered when the U.S. Senate failed to pass the 2022 voting rights legislation. The obstacles keep coming, but the pursuit of the dream is undaunted, rooted in conviction, and sustained with perseverance. Fortunately for us, there is much to be learned from Dr. King's unwavering fight for social justice and civil rights…despite and in spite of many setbacks still being perpetuated to this day.

With this relatable example in mind, I have developed the following three tips designed to help you "stop a setback from setting you back."

1. Stay focused on your goal – How important is your goal? Why is your goal important? Is your goal important for others or a system? Like most of us, I am sure you have no shortage of distractions. So staying focused must be intentional. I encourage you to identify the various ways to do that. You can develop many techniques to improve your focusing skills, and there is value in having a defined goal. Some benefits and advantages are:

  • Setting goals helps trigger new behaviors, helps guide your focus, and sustains momentum in life.

  • Goals also help align your focus and promote a sense of self-mastery.

  • Setting goals motivates us, improves our mental health, and helps us achieve personal or professional success.

Your reasoning and approach for goal setting are personal. As a result, some resist making a declaration of goals public. But be assured, if you are a leader, someone is measuring the effectiveness of your perceived goals even if you are not.

2. Never make permanent decisions during temporary situations. Imagine how tempting it is to change course or direction or give up or abandon your goal in the face of trouble. What mistakes have you made in the past by giving up on a goal when you ran into challenges? Whether it is fear-driven by the known or unknown, be advised that making decisions under the influence of fear rarely brings about success.

"When we expect everything to be fast, quick, and without struggle, we end up misleading ourselves."

I have often learned that patience is a virtue. If a virtue, why is patience so elusive? Could our social construct drive us such that speed is the king of everything? As technology has advanced, it seems we want everything fast and quick…instant gratification. Waiting does not seem to be in our DNA. Even commerce expects immediate results and responses.

Nevertheless, characteristics of patience and immediacy don't match. Don't get me wrong, improving things to make them better and more efficient is often a good thing. But when we expect everything to be fast, quick, and without struggle, we end up misleading ourselves.

When you listen to successful persons who have achieved some extraordinary feat, setbacks always have a common thread along their journey. Please don't just believe me, do your own research. If those achieving significant milestones have had setbacks, why should we expect an exemption in our quest?

3. Discover opportunity in a setback. So, let's rethink. As a leader, what opportunities could a setback provide? Initially, that mind shift causes us to accept the setback and stop denying it. This acceptance is necessary because we can use it as part of our journey and embrace it as a learning process. For example, I have a book on my shelf, entitled Joy For The Journey, by Dr. A. Louis Patterson, Jr. Dr. Patterson's writings reminded me to take stock of my experiences along my journey in life because there is something to learn. As I consider the setbacks I encountered, a positive and obvious conclusion is that I have survived them all. The setbacks didn't define me; they propelled me onward because my ultimate joy was subject to my internal goals. Moreover, I could use those setbacks to refine and improve the pursuit of my goals.

"You can control the depth of your setback or the height of your rebound as you are propelled forward."

Today, our entire world is dealing with COVID-19. We have no shortage of lists and rules about what we should not do. Yet, do we ever consider what we can do? When we focus more on the positive, we find hope and opportunities. On the contrary, a negative focus leaves us feeling frustrated and confined. What about you? How are you facing and handling the COVID -19 challenges?

In your leadership journey, there will be setbacks. I don't know the foundations of your internal joy, nor do I know the pain of your setback, but I know that you can control the depth of your setback or the height of your rebound as you are propelled forward. So remember; stay focused on your goal, don't' make permanent decisions in temporary situations, and discover opportunities in the setback. Try it. Let me know how it works for you. Please post comments at, or you can email me at I would love to hear from you and offer other techniques if you are interested. So now go forth and #LEADPerpetually.

The information contained in this blog is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness, or timeliness. To subscribe to these blogs, please visit You will also have access to a leadership guide that started it all.


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