Maria Connolly, LPC

Be Thankful for Setbacks in Life? You’ve GOT to be Kidding! Maybe Not…

You can be grateful for the setbacks in life, when you use them as opportunities to learn, course correct and for developing resilience and personal growth.“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

This time of year, many people make time to enjoy family, friends and some good food, too. What I love about this time of year is that it gives me the opportunity to reflect on everything I’m grateful for, like you being part of my community. I’m also loving my new website design and excited about new upcoming projects next year. How about you? The holiday season and end of year gives everyone the opportunity to enhance your ability to be grateful for all that comes into your life — even the setbacks in life!

What!? Do you think I’m crazy to write “be grateful for ALL that comes into your life”? Is there a benefit to accepting both the “good” and “bad”? (I use the apostrophes, because it’s not helpful to label anything as good or bad, even though this is how people commonly phrase what’s presently working as opposed to what’s not working.) We can all benefit somehow from anything that happens. It just depends on how you look at it.

We tend to take so many things for granted. Yet, being grateful for the things that are working in your life will give you strength to deal with problems and setbacks when they come along. Take a moment and let that sink in…if you want to gift yourself something really valuable, give yourself resilience and a growth mindset. These don’t come from living an easy life. These are built only from facing and handling disappointments, obstacles and setbacks in life.

We’ve all heard the expression, “when one door closes, another opens.” However, to see that open door as an opportunity for growth requires mindfulness and self-awareness. You may, like I often do, automatically respond to setbacks in life with feelings of stress, worry, anger, disappointment and sadness. It’s quite natural to resist initially. Yet, if you’re open and accepting, in time you will find something of value that you can be thankful for.

When you adopt the mindset that all setbacks are challenges, you can often greet each one with a measure of excitement, wanting to see how you’re going to solve the problem and how it’s going to make you a stronger, wiser person. None of us can go through life problem-free. Disappointments, problems, setbacks, and stresses will come your way. The question to answer is “How is this situation going to help me grow emotionally, spiritually, and mentally?”  

It sounds counterintuitive to be thankful for setbacks in life, but they can make us more resourceful, if we let them. If you adopt the attitude, “I don’t deserve this. The world owes me something better,” it’s just going to lead to anger, frustration and depression.

As an exercise, I invite you to reflect on how your setbacks have served you in the past. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many times something you thought was a setback was really a shift to something more fulfilling, in the long run.

During this holiday season, please make it your intention to express thanks for all the things that are working in your life, and then make time to also be grateful for the setbacks in your life. Set your intentions to turn “every test into a testimony and your mess into a message,” as Amir Ghannad puts it so well.

If you’d like to learn more about shifting away from a reactionary response to a more intentional state, plan on joining us at our Women: Bring Forth the Leader Within Retreat. We’re empowering women, like you, to live a vibrant life, elevate their presence, and make a difference in the world.

emotions, Personal Growth - Professional Growth


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