My Two cents: The Importance of Setback

‘A man should conceive of a legitimate purpose in his heart, and set out to accomplish it… He should make this purpose his supreme duty, and should devote himself to its attainment, not allowing his thoughts to wander away into ephemeral fancies… Even if he fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome) the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting point for future power and triumph.'(As A Man Thinketh by James Allen pg.15)

A setback- a reversal or check in progress. This in my view, is the most important part of your professional journey. It comes in different forms and may come at different times too. One person may even experience several setbacks, the greatest question is how will you react to it? That is what differentiates the wheat from the chaff.

We have all seen it happen to our friends or experienced it ourselves… being held back a year or two either because we failed the exams or we were caught up in strikes and demonstrations, re-doing a unit, or being discontinued altogether. I experienced my setback after six months of my first job when I quit and ventured out to look for something better. There were many better places out there alright but securing a job in one of them was the test of my life.

In all these scenarios there is progress that is stopped or differed, and as a natural rule, every action demands a reaction. This reaction, may determine the rest of your career (at-least it has for me and where I am now) I experienced some immediate outcomes from my setback that I shall generalize and call normal:

The first thing someone experiences is uncertainty.You question your abilities and any past triumphs. You even wonder whether you were qualified to get the opportunity in the first place. Many people will deny these thoughts because of their pride, but deep down everyone has that menacing self-doubt, the difference comes in whether you listen to them or ignore them. I decided eventually to ignore them.

If you listen to the voices of uncertainty the next thing that is likely to happen is that you get the desire to quit. You overwhelm yourself with thoughts of mediocrity that eventually lead you to the easiest option available, that is giving up. Some people do give up and to some that is the best decision that they may ever make. However, I believe that when faced with a setback it is not your vocation that requires change but your mindset.

My setback was indeed the turning point of my architectural journey and ironically, that was when I decided that I wanted to practise architecture. Yes! Not my first year of study when I loved art and was excited by the great reviews my shading techniques got. And definitely not when I was in primary school and I was told that an architect drew the cool blueprints that I kept admiring. After six years of study, I still had no idea that I wanted to practise architecture, until I stepped out of the box and looked in.

A setback is therefore important, and from my case, this is why… Firstly, it gave me time-out. This was a crucial element in rediscovering my passion for architecture. I stepped out of the box and examined my then practise and indeed I was mortified by how casually I treated a vocation that I claimed to love. When you look in from outside you find out if you are your own deterrent to progress and you decide whether you really want to put this vocation first.

With the time and self-examination, I was able to realise my strengths and weaknesses and their place in the existing construction industry. Our minds naturally follow the easier paths of doing what we are used to or good at. It takes a great amount of energy to try and work on things we are knowingly poor at but the fruits are indeed sweet.

After knowing my strengths and weaknesses and accepting criticisms, I learned that, to get ahead, you can’t take all the advice and criticism that you get to heart. So I learned how to form a thick skin and block all the non-constructive criticism that is and will be thrown at me. We need to realise that everyone has a different temperament and letting people’s remarks take a personal toll on you slowly but surely weakens your resolve to practise and may damage your whole self-esteem.

Lastly, this is a professional journey not a destination.It takes time and constant practise to move up to higher levels. Don’t let your past determine your worth today. Setbacks are a normal part of the journey and sure enough all of us have passed through them in one way or another and will continue to. They are however not a measure of our intelligence so learn from it and move on.

What setbacks have you had and how did they propel you to the path towards your end goal? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Take setbacks positively, build your way back up to your path and most of all remember, this is just, my two cents!


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Humphrey says:

    Hi Jedidah. Great articles.Very inspiring. Keep it up and on it

    1. Hi Humphrey,
      Thanks for reading. Looking forward to a travel diary of sorts from you 🙂

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