5 Ways to Go Forward After a Setback

With the passage into the New Year, my Facebook news feed has blown up with words of inspiration, suggestions of resolutions, and details on how to chase progress and perfections. As a yoga teacher, I love that people want to try something new and that yoga is on their list. The symbolism of a fresh new year and an opportunity to reinvent go hand-in-hand. I even offered some humble suggestions on walking the resolution path in an Athleta Chi article Turn Resolutions into Possibilities.

That said, in a quest for progress we forget to embrace the best lesson life deals, a setback. There is a huge value in experiencing one and still being able to dial into your inner GPS (intuition) and plow forward. When your setback occurs in 2014 (because it will), will you accept it as a defeat or will you file it away as a message from the universe to rethink, reorganize, and rework your plan.

Amy AnnisShifting gears has been a theme in my life the last five years. I’ve had some major life events… some that I invited and one that was a staggering setback. Re-evaluating, I still maintain I barreled through the setback (cancer) with the support of a rocking friend and family posse, great medical care, a yoga mat, and sheer orneriness. Here’s a glossed over synopsis of the path I have walked: Girl wakes up one morning and has cancer, girl kicks cancer’s ass, and then girl goes on to create a yoga business that affords her the opportunity to do what she loves every day. Sounds pretty shiny.

And yet, the unglossed version is my reality. Remembering it softens my perception on defeats and helps quelch the fears of self-doubt as I move forward.

Waking up to cancer in 2009 was a big setback. Emotionally, financially, and physically. And although I’ve written many times about the experience and the lessons learned, I don’t know if I have ever written about the reoccurring fears, the messiness of trying to rebuild, and the mistakes I made along the way. Adversity isn’t as interesting as triumph. But it was that ugly diagnosis which forced me to pull up my big girl pants and get resilient. So weirdly enough, I’m grateful for the diagnosis. It was that monstrous setback that made a no bullshit rebuild such a critical component to my healing. I got focused–fast, and decided that post-cancer Amy was going to make a dent.

So here are my theories on how to rebuild. And I write this this with a sincere prayer that many of you don’t need a cancer springboard to propel you forward. Just an “I’m ready to kick start a great new life spring board,” and 2014 is a great place to start.

  1. Define what you wish to accomplish. Write it down so you can refer to it again and again (with big chunky letters and a pretty-colored pen). It sounds simplistic, but do what you love. It’s not magic or frou-frou new age spirituality. If you can find what you are supposed to be doing and then do it; the happiness will come.
  2. Start planning and be prepared to restart again and again. Take a few steps forward and don’t be surprised when you have to take a few steps back. Push harder. Incorporate your left and right brain, your raw emotion, and a healthy respect for benefiting the community and world you live in.
  3. Embrace the setbacks, or at least be prepared to embrace them. Receive them as messages from the Universe. I mentioned the messiness of rebuilding earlier, and would be remiss if I didn’t confess to hurting feelings, missing out on important moments of my children, and piling loads of expectations upon my husband in order to make my dreams happen. I often had to step back in those situations and re-examine my priorities. Some of my ideas are crumpled at the bottom of my wastebasket. But my big picture still remains. Don’t lose the big picture. Refer back to item #1.
  4. Self-message the positive. Oh wow, this is big. Don’t allow self-doubt to creep in and definitely don’t speak it out loud. Do this for yourself and by the way do it for your kids! Science teaches us that negative massaging, “I’m overweight,” and “I’m not good enough,” are gateways to poor self-esteem and mismanaged behaviors. We all get frustrated with ourselves and messages in our brains are mistranslated but if you can create a positive self-image within yourself, others will see you in that same light. P.S. on this one: Don’t be reluctant to look for support or therapy on this rebuild. Realize that character building sometimes requires support.
  5. Be stubborn. Once you have established your goals, don’t give up. Build an armor of resilience and if it begins to melt from an attack of self-doubt pull out your super hero cape. Eventually you will plow through.

Amy Annis - Yoga

Finally, be strong enough to experience a setback but human enough to not pretend that you can always master it. File it away as a lesson learned and embrace the vulnerability it creates within you. It’s that human quality which we all posses that is a very strong launching pad to reconstructing our life. Ironically, we have that crazy-assed setback to thank for it.


January 07, 2014 at 8:56 am

Amy – LOVED this blog! It’s very in-line with what I’ve been thinking about for a while. Great cancer warriors think alike. 😉 Hang tough and keep on!

Gen =)


January 07, 2014 at 9:56 am

Thank you Amy. I love this post. I love your honesty and I love your toughness and motivation.

Jannine Myers

January 10, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Amy, I really loved reading your article and I love the advice you have provided. I am sharing your post with the woman in the trail running group I belong to (WOOT Women On Okinawa Trails), as I am sure they will love it and find it just as inspiring as I do 🙂

lori kontz

January 16, 2014 at 8:59 am

Thanks so much for your article. I found it very inspirational and I happened upon it on exactly the right day and time! I just filed for a divorce a couple weeks ago and am trying to deal with all the yukky feelings of hurt and betrayal. I’ve decided I need to feel them, own them and now MOVE ON and UP!! I’m 54 yrs. old, and an ex-athlete. In the last 2 years I’ve been diagnosed with polyneuropathy, which causes severe pain. Recently, the neuropathy has also begun to effect my autonomic system. I am not diabetic, so the cause of this crazy neuropathy is still unknown?! Nevertheless, it’s here and I’ve got to deal with it.

I used to love doing yoga, but find that I can no longer do it, not only because of the pain in my feet, but my balance is way off. I can no longer go for walks (one of my favorite things in life) because of problems with my feet. I have found that I love cycling, but I’ll have to wait for spring to get back on my bike. Because of the divorce, I am not financially able to afford going to a gym. So…..I’m looking for some kind of exercise that will make me feel both mentally and physically better. I have GOT to get myself out of the depression I’ve been wallowing in. I don’t have a specific plan for how to move on with my life, but I do know that I’ve got to reclaim my identity and, while the divorce & neuropathy are both setbacks, I’m not going to let them keep me down! Reading your article lifted my spirits greatly! Thank you so much.

Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana

January 17, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Thank you so much for your inspiring words. I’ve struggled with setbacks galore in the last 18 months and feel like a fish out of water, flopping around all over just trying to find the water again. I’d done so well: worked through the loss of my 25 year old niece (who left three wonderful children as her legacy), the near loss of my marriage and career, all while creating an incredibly healthy body through fitness pole dancing to keep myself sane. I started at 48. Then, 18 months ago I had a blood clot in my leg (known problem) but then found out I had ADD. I’ve struggled through two failed attempts at meds, all while not being able to do the exercise I love because the meds messed with my heart. Then osteoarthritis kicked in and I’m a hobbling, old-lady mess. I want to start again, anything, but my irrational fear of…I don’t even know…stops me. Wii is set up. Pole is still up. But I just can’t get started. So frustrating. Then I read your post and know I HAVE to start. For me. To be the best me I can and to live a healthy, pain free life. I knew I came back to Athleta for a reason. 🙂


January 05, 2016 at 8:08 am

Thank you that was helpful God bless you

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