Embracing Setbacks

How to bounce back from your knock back when creating new habits!

Sometimes motivational mantras, new routines, micro goal setting (or a good telling off) just aren’t enough to help you stick to new habits or commitments.

By now, most of those who set New Year resolutions will have experienced a setback, and many will have failed at the first or second hurdle and completely given up.

In a world saturated with success stories, we know we need to confront the challenges and setbacks that go with any personal developmental change worth having. Just because most new habits/resolutions fail at some point, doesn’t mean it has to be terminal.

Instead, be prepared for the reality of the change challenge…aka the change process!

Many people begin the process of changing habits by focusing on what they want to achieve (which is a good start!). This can lead us to either outcome-based goals or an alternative of identity-based goals.  Outcome based on what we want to achieve and identity, who we want to become.

For example – Do I want to run one marathon or become a marathon runner?

Our behaviours and beliefs are a reflection of our identity and can be a double-edged sword that works against us.  Have you ever heard yourself say something like “I’m never going to be x, I’m just not that type of person”!

So, back to the process...do not ignore it! Yes, keep your eye on the prize of losing X pounds or running a 5k, but it is important to recognise the process to get you there and be prepared for it.

The process should shift and change like the weather…..it is almost always fluid and imperfect.

What is going to motivate you to run on that cold, dark evening when you want to get in your pyjamas? Or resist cracking open a beer at 9pm?

What will inspire you to continue to work on your goal? Equally, what might get in your way and how can you give that a voice too?

Here are our tips to ensure you do not fall at the first hurdle:

  • Start with small steps and set yourself a short-term goal for some small quick wins. This will reinforce who you want to be, not just what you want to achieve. It will also avoid going too hard too quickly!
  • Find the right accountability partners! Going solo can be isolating and demotivating. Finding the right accountability partners can provide the encouragement and motivation needed during moments of doubt.
  • Share your goals with close friends and family, not only does it add to your accountability but also gives you support.
  • Watch out for our lazy brains!! To achieve our goals, we often need to change our deep-seated habits, but our brains like to resist any discomfort & we go back to our comfortable place. This is called the Status Quo Bias! We are more likely to stay with our status quo – our existing mindset- rather than persist with changing habits which take time and effort.
  • Don’t become decision fatigued. The more decisions we must make, even the small ones, the more depleted our willpower will become. Think about the small steps you can incorporate so that you require little or no decision effort. E.g. Laying out your gym clothes the night before!


Setbacks don’t define you, they refine you!  Embrace the reality of setbacks with open arms and focus on the process. You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the levels of your processes. So, make sure you establish your plan to set yourself up for success!

For an easy way to build good habits and break bad ones read Atomic Habits: by James Clear.

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