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Staying on Track: Recovering from Setbacks

Your true character shows in how you respond to the challenges you face in your journey towards success.


At some point in your academic career, there is more than likely going to be a setback of some kind. It might be a particularly tough course that seems insurmountable, financial difficulties, a family matter that has an effect on your school work, or the nagging sense that perhaps you’ve chosen the wrong field of study.

It’s important to realize that nearly everyone faces a setback of some sort or other. You’re not alone, and it mostly certainly doesn’t make you a failure. How you face that setback and deal with it can make a difference—and you don’t have to do it alone. Here are tips for coping with setbacks and staying on track.

  • Don’t be afraid. Being afraid to face setbacks head on can prevent you from succeeding. In contrast, learning to deal with setbacks can help you adapt and move forward. The key is to process your setbacks, allow yourself time to recover, and take what you’ve learned to continue down your path.

    As Michael Plater, PhD, President Emeritus of Strayer University, says, “Obstacles are a part of every individual’s growth towards success, not only for themselves, but ultimately for their families. You have to be willing to adapt to unexpected changes and look for opportunities to help others who might be struggling at times. Your true character shows in how you respond to the challenges you face in your journey towards success.”

  • Setbacks are inevitable, not inescapable. Everyone faces setbacks. As a student, not every class you take will come easy to you. Some classes will take more work, and you still may not excel. At work, you’ll have good days and bad days, and rolling with the tide is the only way to move forward. When a setback happens, remind yourself that this is typical, not abnormal, and begin looking at ways to overcome it rather than obsessing over it. Remember: This happens to everyone. It’s no reflection on you as a person or a student. The key is how you deal with the setback, not that the setback happened in the first place.

  • Give yourself time. That’s not to say setbacks don’t hurt. Don’t deny your feelings, and give yourself some time to work through your frustration or discouragement. Taking a step back to gather your thoughts is healthy. It helps you identify your options for regrouping and moving forward. Unless there’s a crucial reason for taking immediate action, taking time to step back and assess the situation can help you think more clearly. It can also give you the chance to reach out to trusted advisors for advice.

  • Don’t go it alone. There are people who want you to succeed as much as you want to. They may be your partner, parents, friends, children, and—not least of all—your mentors. Never be afraid to ask for help. It shows courage, not weakness, to admit you need a helping hand.

    For example, if your schedule is overloaded and causing you to make mistakes and overlook things, ask for help to get things done. Maybe your partner or parents can pick up the kids and cook dinner one night, or perhaps a coworker could help you with some tasks. For many situations, one excellent resource is the Strayer University Student Services Coach program, a team of dedicated professionals whose sole focus is helping students achieve their goals. You might be surprised at the ways a Student Services Coach can help you, both academically and in figuring out how to balance work, school, and life.

Remember, setbacks are speed bumps—they’re not the end of the road. Very few are insurmountable. The key is in facing them and being willing to ask for help if needed. Even more importantly, the fear of setbacks should never hinder you from working to achieve your goals. The only real failure is refusing to learn and grow from your mistakes.

Are you ready to take the first step? Learn more about degree programs at Strayer University.

Category: Motivation & Inspiration

Published Date: June 28, 2019