By Kristen Donia

How do I deal with setbacks? What do I do if I’m not progressing with my monthly intentions as I thought I would?

First off, it’s important not to associate yourself with the setback itself. In our culture, we look at failure in a very specific way. School can often teach us that we are never supposed to fail because we are rewarded for not making mistakes.

Learning this at a young age doesn’t prepare us for the ups and downs that life will inevitably have. You see, we need to be familiar with both mistakes and failure, give them a seat at the table, and realize that we are not failures because we failed. It’s okay to make mistakes, in fact, it’s positive to try something and fail, to venture into new territory and make a mistake. We need to do this to learn about life, to figure out what we want and don’t want, and learn to be resilient. How else are we going to do this unless we try things and see how they go?

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say at the beginning of the year, you set an intention to go for a 20-minute walk four times a week. You held yourself accountable in a journal that you kept by your bed and each day that you went for a walk you rewarded yourself with watching an hour-long Netflix show you love.

Things went pretty well in January, you walked four days a week. February went okay, you missed some days but all in all, did pretty good. Now in March things went a little bit differently, your school schedule combined with your work schedule didn’t allow you as much time to ensure that your goal was met.

You didn’t meet your intention, in a sense, you failed. You didn’t resolve to do the thing that you wanted to do. And that’s okay. You get the opportunity to decide how you proceed from here. If this is how we look at it, we associate ourselves directly with this failure and think of it as horrible and negative, we discourage any further progress or growth in this area as well as take a big hit emotionally. And we may decide to give up for the whole year.

The result is stunted progress moving forward. Yet progress isn’t linear it ebbs and flows. The important distinction to make is that we can pick up wherever we left off. We can choose to forgive. We can choose to move through and we can choose to move on.

If we offer ourselves radical kindness paired with forgiveness, the dialogue changes. Leave the past where it was, back there, and start fresh today. Check-in with yourself, what is it that I need today? What comes up?

We have the opportunity to think, “March didn’t go as I’d thought, school and work demanded more from me. I didn’t reach the intention I wanted, I wonder if reframing is a good idea, I could adjust my goal two or three days a week, maybe that will be easier to achieve.”

This approach incorporates changes, kindness, and adjusting to where you are at.

Checking in to see if your intention is still bringing value to your life, something that resonates, can give you a good idea of where you’re at. If the answer is yes, then every day is a chance to begin. If the answer is no, pivot. Pick that back up when you’re ready. Perhaps you want to focus more on your self-talk, or another area in which you could use more self-awareness. Or perhaps adjust. You get to choose. And you are not a failure. You are a lifelong learner which is about the best thing any of us can be.


Kristen Donia is a freelance writer living in a tiny house she built in sunny Southern Oregon. She has a Bachelors Degree in Education and has dedicated her life to studying and writing about empathy, vulnerability and enriching the human experience.