Here’s an alert for all those in pursuit of success in any area of life, be it career, business, education, or something personal like a relationship or marriage: prepare for setbacks! When setting out to see a dream realized, most of us give little thought to setbacks that may pop up along the way. But although we may hope they won’t, that hope is an idle one—as idle as a gardener’s hope for a weed-free garden. Setbacks will come. The wise and successful planner anticipates this so as to avoid being blindsided, devastated, and discouraged to the point of quitting when setbacks arise. The wise person also takes advantage of them to try to learn something.

Zig Ziglar, a well-known motivational author and speaker, says this about setbacks: “How many people are completely successful in every department of life? Not one! The most successful people are the ones who learn from their mistakes and setbacks and turn these into opportunities.”

Or consider this quote by successful entrepreneur Robert Kiyosaki: “Losers quit when they fail. Winners fail until they succeed.” Clearly, for Kiyosaki, setbacks are an inevitable and therefore expected part of succeeding. The secret to dealing with setbacks is to expect these bumps in the road to come along, and when they do—as they will—to accept them without being alarmed or thrown off track. You can deal with them! And you can learn from them. On your success journey you need to be like the baseball player who knows that to hit a home run he must expect to miss some balls. Or like the gardener who knows that to have a perfect garden he’ll have to deal with the weeds—again and again.

How does one deal with setbacks on one’s success journey? This little ditty may help you:

  • As you amble on through life, brother/sister,
  • Whatever be your goal,
  • Keep your eye upon the doughnut
  • And not upon the hole.

That’s the key: keep your eye on the goal you started with, pick yourself up, and keep on moving towards it! Determination and persistence will be the tools that help you deal with your setbacks and succeed. Gail Devers, a two-time Olympic champion, advises us to “understand that to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and persistence.”

Having your eyes open to the possibility of setbacks—being aware without being afraid—is a prerequisite to succeeding, and taking your setbacks in stride and learning from them qualifies you for success. To be properly prepared is to be a bit like a cruise ship: while they don’t expect disaster, they do carry lifejackets and lifeboats, ready to deal with whatever comes.

Stay alert and be clearheaded.
—1 Thessalonians 5:6