The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Setbacks As A Springboard To Success

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Several years ago I worked with a soccer manager and we were discussing Tom, a rising star. The manager said:

“Tom is talented. He is outstanding for his age, but we don’t know how good he will become. We will know better when he has had some setbacks.

“Talent is a great starting point. Sport is challenging, however, and full of disappointments.

“Tom has found things easy so far. He has always been the first pick in his age group, but he has not yet become battle hardened.

“The best player I ever worked with broke his leg twice before he was twenty. He developed both the physical and mental strength required to have a great career.

“Tom may become a fine player. But we need to see how he deals with adversity.”

Looking back on your life, can you think of a setback you used as a spur to succeed? You may have been passed over for a job, suffered an illness, experienced a broken dream or whatever.

What did you do right to use this as a stimulus? You may have taken time out to gather your strength, before then moving on to shape your future. Whatever route you took, you used the experience to good effect.

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

Describe a specific situation in the past when you used a setback as a springboard to success.

Describe the specific things you did to use the experience as a springboard.

Describe the specific outcomes – the results that happened – from you using the setback as a springboard to success.

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Today you can find many articles on topics such as Grit, Resilience and Carol Dweck’s work on Growth Mindsets. But one point is worth remembering regarding how people show persistence on the way to peak performance.

A person can show Grit, for example, in one area of life but not in another. A youngster may demonstrate this ability when constructing motorbikes, but not when doing algebra.

This is why it can be useful to encourage a person to clarify their own experiences of using setbacks as a springboard for achieving success. The organic approach to working with people enables them to clarify the following things.

The specific times in the past when they have done superb work or overcome challenges successfully.

The specific things they did right then – the principles they followed – to achieve success.

The specific things they can do in the future to follow these principles – plus add other skills – to achieve success.

A person must believe in their gut that they have the capacity to succeed. They can then be helped to build on their strengths and apply these principles to the areas where they have a good chance of success.

During my own work with soccer players, for example, I focused on helping individuals to find their successful patterns. Several then applied these ideas to other areas where they had talents.

One player went on to build and sell a digital business, whilst another became a high performing sales person. Both recalled what they had learned from the mental side of sports and how they had applied these principles in their careers.

Peak performers take another step. Recalling when they have overcome challenges, they anticipate how they can apply similar principles to potential future setbacks.

Such people are like mountain climbers. They do their due diligence, plus lots of mental rehearsal. This often involves taking the following steps.

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Positive people aim to do their best, but they also have a back up plan. This sometimes involves clarifying how they can manage potential setbacks in the future.

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

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to use a potential setback as a springboard to achieve success.

Describe the specific things you can do to use the setback as a springboard to achieve success

Describe the specific outcomes – the things that may result – from you using the setback as a springboard to success.

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