Most of us aren’t strangers to setbacks, especially given the challenges we’ve all faced over the past year. But setbacks don’t have to mean quitting. From college and high school athletes who have seen their seasons canceled, to pro-teams with adjusted playing guidelines, nothing in the sports world is quite the way it was expected to be. Our daily lives have been similarly affected, with restrictions on our movement and everchanging working situations.

When you’re faced with a challenge, applying an athlete mindset can be the key to finding a way forward. Brazilian author Paulo Souza might have explained it best:

Here are three ways setbacks can actually propel you forward:

Setbacks can provide purpose and shift your motivation

For Jeff Okudah, the third pick in the 2020 NFL draft, losing his mother to lymphoma profoundly affected his life, but her memory reminds him to hang in there when things get tough. When faced with difficulties, his approach is to “Keep pushing forward. Put one step in front of the other and keep going.”

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NFL cornerback Jeff Okudah is motivated to push himself every day by the memory of his mother. ©EXOS

So, when you get injured, sick, or an unexpected turn of events happens in your job or relationships, pay attention to how setbacks can peel back the layers and reveal what’s really important. Then you can look inside and find out what drives you, what you’re passionate about, and what you want to focus on. As a result, commitments become even stronger and goals are more meaningful.

Setbacks test your grit

We all get knocked down, but getting back up is the true show of strength. Grit is the ability to persevere in the face of uncertain outcomes, and often those outcomes aren’t the positive ones we’re hoping for. When you keep at it, you can experience that exhilaration that comes when you overcome that voice in the back of your mind that tells you to quit.

For a look at what grit can do, just check out Carol Reeve, an avid runner in her 50s. Despite the fact that her walk was barely a shuffle on the day of her first physical therapy session at EXOS, through hard work and dedication she has now run more than 100 marathons to date.

Older woman looking at old picture of herself in a scrapbook, picture, memory, EXOS
Multiple injuries almost stopped Carol Reeve from running. It was sheer grit and commitment to her physiotherapy that allowed her to complete her 82nd marathon. ©EXOS

Setbacks allow you to guide others

When Ray Wells was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he soon had to give up the things he loved, which anyone would consider a setback. But he fought back and was able to get back to his passion of practicing martial arts – and even better, he’s now leading exercise classes for others with the disease. “For me, the highlight of almost every day is going to my classes,” he says.

Man holding up an old picture of his younger self in a karate dual, sport, memory, fitness, EXOS
When Ray Wells was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he refocused his energy towards helping others. This life-changing news became a positive force for good. ©EXOS

And once you’ve dug yourself out of a hole, you’re better equipped to help others find their way too.

Get ready for your next setback

When you hit a setback, or a setback hits you, try these steps from Tiffany Grimm, Director of Recovery at EXOS.

  • Pause and assess all the implications. Look deeper into the meaning of the setback. Do you need to slow down for a reason? What is it trying to teach you? What can you gain?
  • Reflect on where you were going. Was it the right path after all? Was it aligned with your values? Was it taking you away from something more meaningful in your life?
  • Look to the future. What should be different next time? What do you need to change in your journey to your goal? What needs revision so that you can maximize your outcomes? How can you approach it in a new way, with the lessons you’ve learned from the setback?
  • Evaluate your support system. If the people you hang around with don’t support you getting back on track, get a different support team. Connect with people who have been where you are and engage in mutual motivation.
  • Decide to move forward. Setbacks can either make or break you. Even if you can’t do what you did before, what can you do? Make a list of the ways you can mentally and physically improve yourself given the setback and circumstances.
  • Take action. Now put it into play. Once you accept the setback and understand that it’s here to help you grow, take the action that serves your highest intention and deepest values. This is your time to get back up and try again.

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If a setback turns your life upside down, take a moment to reflect on how you can use it to create positivity in your life.

Your setback is your story, tell it with pride. Share in the comments below what setbacks you’ve overcome or are working on right now.


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by Dylan Alexander 23.01.2021
Finances have always been a setback for me and when I finally got a job, the pandemic hit and I was let go. I decided to turn inwards and started studying and teaching myself new skills which led me to take all of the experience and knowledge I have gained, put pen to paper and from there paper to keyboard. I now have my own website which I am slowly building. In all of this, I lost the desire to make money but to provide for the people and follow my passion. Finances will follow soon. This platform was a big part of the inspiration to move forwards for that I am very grateful Thank you Adidas!.
by Simon 31.01.2021
My personal setback was covid 19. Twice in 2020.
It didn’t hit my family and I hard, I was lucky, but it effected my job and my salary sank.
The first Italian lockdown was easy. Everyone was close at home, and “everything will be
fine” was the most important hashtag.
But the second one was terrible. We were open in the morning and closed in the evening.
And it was just my work. Everyone could work but me!
When after three weeks I was back in my store, I couldn’t work more than half-time.
This situation has continued for 3 months, and It will continue for almost another 2.
It’s heavy, because my job identifies me, and I’m identified by my job.
Everyone has projects for the future, for the summer, they dream.
I can’t.
I can’t schedule a day with my family in the snow,
I can’t change my car,
I can’t think of any time longer than a single week.
Because I have to save money I decided to get back up.
I focused on my personal life. I have spent too much time working since 2003.
I’m trying to rebuild my marriage...It’s not easy, but it’s a beautiful journey.
I gave up all those friends who gave “wonderful” advice, and judged me too much.
I have a dream now, to spend time with my family in the same way, even if I will not have
the same amount.
Maybe to earn more money, or not to be worried about the future...or not much!
I’m still alive, we’re safe, and I keep fighting….I love this.
by Trent Greener 26.02.2021
Thanks for a great blueprint to get back in the game!