Is it a setback or an opportunity?

Posted by on Sep 27, 2013 in Change Management | 8 comments

In my experience, life rarely goes according to plan. At least not according to my plan. This isn’t because I’m unlucky, or life sucks, or any such nonsense- it happens because, well, I don’t control what happens in life, I only control what I do with my life.

It’s really not a problem when things don’t work out the way I thought they would as long as I let go of my attachment to the outcome and embrace whatever new opportunities are presented to me.

You see, where I get stuck- where most of us get stuck- is feeling as though things not working out the way we plan is a bad thing. We get stuck on our perception that life was supposed to work out one way or another. The key to a successful and happy life is to not get stuck in this moment, at least not for very long, and to look for opportunities in the setback and adjust our plan. Let me give you an example.

Last night I planned to sit down and write today’s blog post but my plan was thwarted by an area-wide internet outage. I thought about writing the post I had planned in a Word document but when I expanded my plans to include other possibilities I realized I really wanted to relax and enjoy the evening- and that’s exactly what I did. This choice to view the internet outage as an opportunity to do something different than I had planned got me thinking about other times a perceived setback wasn’t necessarily a setback at all.

problems are opportunities in disguiseImage credit Jason Tester/ Guerrilla Futures

Several years ago I had just started a great new job when I found out my company was being bought out by a much larger organization and my particular job no longer existed in the new organization. I felt discouraged, stressed, and anxious- as I think most people would- but as it turns out I wasn’t being laid off, I was being offered a different job within the new organization. I decided to embrace the opportunity and expand my skills and experience in this new role, even though it wasn’t a role I would have pursued otherwise.

I worked hard at my new role for 2 and 1/2 years until I realized I was suffering from job burnout. Instead of finding another high-pressure, full-time, corporate job, I decided to try working part-time. What an amazing opportunity to do something completely different than I’d done my entire career! This definitely wasn’t a setback, it was my time to fully embrace work-life balance and do more with my life.

As I thought about this topic more I realized there are opportunities to change my plan every day- like when the car in front of me is driving 10 miles under the speed limit and I choose to perceive at this common annoyance as an opportunity to slow down, take a deep breath, and think of one thing in my life I’m grateful for. For just a moment I stop focusing on where I’m going and focus on where I am right now. Thank you, slow driver, what a gift you’ve given me! Or perhaps it was a gift I gave to myself my simply adjusting my plan and finding the opportunity in the moment.

Now I’m feeling especially grateful for the internet outage last night that got me thinking about this idea. As I go about my day I’m going to look for opportunities to let go of what I had planned and make the most of whatever happens, and I invite you to do the same.

I love your comments! I’d love to hear about a time you saw a potential setback as an opportunity!


  1. Hi Chrysta…

    First of all, love your blog! Great discussion on embracing unexpected avenues of change. Recently went on medical leave for 2 months for an unexpected knee injury. Being an RN, it was a very unsettling event, not being able to care for others. It was expensive not to work, but found that my time off was a valuable investment-in terms of preventing burnout and being able to tune into what matters most. I recently returned to work feeling invigorated and more motivated as a nurse 😉

    Thanks for letting me share!

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Penelope!

      I am happy to hear that you were able to view your knee injury as an opportunity to rest and recharge. I felt the same way when I had an appendectomy- I didn’t realize how much I would benefit from 2 weeks off work with limited physical activity. It turned out to be just what I needed.

      I want to take a moment and say thank you for all you do as a nurse! My mom was a nurse, and my aunt is a nurse, and I have first-hand appreciation for the important work nurses do. You rock!

      I’m so glad you stopped by and commented- thank you!! Have a grateful day!


      • Thanks for the recognition, Chrysta. I have the most amazing patients! With all those nurses in the family, sounds like you are in good hands! 😉

  2. Oh Chrysta, my life never goes as planned. Okay, sometimes it does but for the most part a lot of really big things I had planned for my life just didn’t happen. It was sad and frightening but since there really is nothing you can do about it you have to learn to deal with what’s given you.

    I know the feeling of things being out of your control. That internet can give us hell at times can’t it! I just go to my faithful old Word and start typing away. I’m bad in that way because you know I stick to a posting schedule and I do hate to miss it. That’s what I get for not planning far ahead.

    I think we just have to look at life as the cards that are dealt to us. To me only the big guy really knows our life’s plan and I just try to embrace what’s given me and be happy with that. I seriously believe it will turn out for the best.

    Thanks for sharing this with us and hope you’re doing well. Enjoy your weekend okay!


    • Thanks for your positive and inspiring comment, Adrienne!

      The only way I know how to live a great life is to play the cards that have been dealt to me. I can wish and hope things were different but all I have is what I have so I choose to make the best of it!

      I must admit I hate to miss my posting schedule, too, though I am learning more and more that it’s okay to get off schedule from time-to-time- in fact it can be quite liberating! :)

      Have a wonderful day!


  3. Hi Chrysta,

    Life never goes exactly according to the plan. It is the part of Universal Grand design.Ups and Downs lurk around you throughout your life and failures and inevitable.

    It’s time to learn to learn from failure, than to regret or sob about them. That’s my life policy.

  4. Life rarely goes according to plan, and that is why life is interesting, right? If life went according to a plan, then it would have been boring. No surprises, no unexpected twists. Nothing!

    As for a setback being an opportunity. I agree. I have had several experiences that I thought were setbacks, but eventually turned out to be an opportunity to learn. I still get angry when I face an obstacle (I am working on controlling my anger, it is going well so far. But, I am far from controlling my anger completely).

    Anyways, great lesson presented here, Chrysta!

    Thank you for sharing the experience :)

    • I appreciate your thoughtful comment, Jeevan!

      I agree and who would want a boring life? Not me! It is challenges that push us to be our best and make the most of the life we have. Yes, even the opportunity to learn can be a wonderful thing.

      And, you know, I think sometimes anger gets a bad reputation. I think it’s okay to feel anger- the only real bad part about it is if you let anger control you but I think the same can be said of any emotion- anger, anxiety, depression, etc. They are fine as long as you can feel them and use them to inform your actions, not act out in emotion.

      Have a grateful day!


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