The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Surviving Setbacks By Focusing On The Things That Give You Strength


How can you gain strength to overcome a setback? Some people start by spending time in their chosen sanctuary. They may rest, sleep, write, listen to music, see a counsellor or whatever. They can begin to heal and make sense of the experience.

Sanctuaries are vital, but there comes a time to move on, otherwise the muscles atrophy. This calls for moving on from mourning to mobilising their energy. How to make this happen?

“What you focus on, you become,” we are told. So one approach is for people to focus on the things that give them strength. Some people take this step in the following ways.

They focus on their deepest values – the principles they believe are important to follow in life.  

They spend time doing simple things that bring them warmth and comfort – such as being with their loved ones, working in their garden, walking in the woods, cooking nourishing food, reading inspiring stories, listening to music or appreciating beauty.

They recall when they have tackled similar challenges in the past and how they can follow these principles in the future.

They focus on what they can control in the situation – rather than what they can’t control – and do simple things to get some quick successes.

They do practical things to encourage themselves and other people in their daily lives and work.

Many people took these steps after the 2016 USA election – a result that filled them with a deep sense of sorrow. After a period of mourning, they began to mobilise their energy.

They spent time with their loved ones and did simple things to appreciate life. Cutting out the mainstream media, they looked for positive stories that provided a sense of hope. They then focused on following their values, setting short-term goals and getting a success.

Looking at your own life, what are the things that give you strength when you focus on them? You may achieve this by spending time with loved ones, following a spiritual faith, doing satisfying projects, being with animals, developing a sense of gratitude or whatever.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the things that give you strength when you focus on them.



Imagine that you have experienced a setback. You have spent time in your chosen sanctuary and now want to move forwards. How can you develop positive energy?

Different people take these steps in different ways. After the 2016 US election, for example, many people visited websites that provided a sense of hope. These included some of the following.

A similar phenomenon happened during the 1970s and 80s. Many people felt depressed about the possibility of war and societies run by dictators.

Some people retreated into their chosen sanctuaries. They chose to do simple things, write, spend time with kindred spirits or go on personal spiritual journeys. They then emerged to make positive contributions to the world.

Historians tell us that periods of darkness sometimes give way to periods of enlightenment. The swings of history may or may not happen during our lifetimes, but it is important to plant seeds of hope. The darkness of the Cold War, for example, was followed by another period of opening up and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Crumbling Empires sometimes do desperate things towards the end of their time. It is then important to stand for the philosophies you believe in and, for example, show how other approaches can benefit both people and the planet.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you have regained some strength after experiencing a setback. What can you do next? One approach is to do something that feels like progress.

Written by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, The Progress Principle describes a key factor that affects people’s wellbeing. People need to feel they are making progress – whatever that means to them. You can discover more via the following link.


The book focuses on what people need in order to flourish in their work, but the principle applies in other situations. This is especially so during difficult times.

People need to set short-term goals and get a success. This can increase the belief that they can shape the future. How can you follow some of these principles in your own way?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to focus on the things that give you strength.

Describe the specific things you can then do to build on this strength, set specific goals and achieve success.

Describe the specific benefits of taking these steps and achieving success.





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