Embracing Adversity: How to use a Setback as a Learning Opportunity

Embracing Adversity: How to use a Setback as a Learning Opportunity

Nobody likes failures or setbacks. But did you know they’re one of the most helpful learning opportunities you have as a manager?

Think about it: When you’ve achieved an objective, you’ll get anything from a pat on the back to a bonus, depending on how important the goal was for your company. But then it’s simply back to work and on to the next challenge. Yet after setbacks, great business leaders use their powers of reflection and analysis to learn what went wrong and how to avoid the same mistake in the future. Here’s how you can do the same.

  • Allow yourself to be disappointed. If you’ve spent time and energy on something, it’s normal to be disappointed. However, don’t sit with that feeling for too long, as it might turn to frustration, which isn’t conducive to learning.
  • See the potential for improvement. It’s important to move on after a setback. Nevertheless, the process of moving on can involve learning how to improve. So instead of forgetting about the setback, see it as an opportunity to gain more knowledge and skills. If you simply refuse to think about it, then you’ll never to gain the insights necessary for improvement.
  • If you made a mistake, acknowledge it. Some setbacks are due to external factors, such as a potential client choosing another company’s proposal over yours because their bid was lower. However, sometimes you simply made a mistake. According to Amy Morin in her Forbes article “5 Ways to Turn Your Mistake Into a Valuable Lesson,” you have to accept your own responsibility for an outcome before you’re ready to learn. 
  • Analyze the situation. Now it’s time to get down to work. You need to analyze the setback to determine why you had a negative outcome. Ask the right questions, such as, “What would have happened if I had done B instead of A?” Map out every alternative strategy, and follow each possible course of action through hypothetically to see how it could have impacted the outcome.
  • Write it all down. Once you’ve completed the analysis, write down all of your findings. Why? Because you retain more when you write things down. In addition, you might want to refer to your notes if, at some point in the future, you find yourself in a similar situation again.

Adversity isn’t fun, but it is educational. If you follow these steps next time you have a setback, you’ll not only learn a valuable lesson; you might also improve your critical thinking and strategizing skills. And in the long run, this could help you advance your career.