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Setbacks part 1


Many will attack their goals in a professional manner with good planning leading to the generation of schedules.
Within this framework people will try to consider everything that may go wrong and provide contingencies (see The Complete Project Management package).

However, it is common for things to happen that are not planned.
These can have a minor or very devastating affect on what you plan to do.
The penalties can range from financial to serious loss of life.
Fortunately, the affects of these setbacks for most people are not quite so dramatic.
How you handle these problems can be very character building.

Panic instead of keeping calm can lead to lower motivation of the team.


People are very different in the way they handle setbacks.
Some can move on very quickly while others will take a long time considering all aspects of what has occurred.

In the main women tend to be more pessimistic than men and tend to worry and dwell more on setbacks.


Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Professor of Psychology at Yale University, coined the phrase ‘rumination’ to describe a style of thinking when faced with a problem.

The word ‘ruminate’ derives from the Latin for chewing cud, a less than genteel process in which cattle grind up, swallow, then regurgitate and re-chew their feed.
Similarly, human ruminators mull an issue at length.

Her research focuses on cognitive vulnerabilities to depression, and on the relationship of mood regulation strategies to vulnerability to depression and other mental health problems.

Rumination is the tendency to respond to distress by focusing on the causes and consequences of your problems, without moving into active problem-solving.
In experimental and survey studies she found that people who ruminate in response to difficult circumstances have more severe and prolonged periods of depression and anxiety.

Rumination appears to exacerbate negative thinking and interfere with good problem-solving.
Ruminators are also more likely than non-ruminators to engage in impulsive, escapist behaviours, such as binge drinking and binge eating.
She has written extensively about women's greater vulnerability to depression compared to men.

Ruminating about the darker side of life can fuel depression.

Susan Nolen-Hoeksema and Christopher Davis, PhD, found that although ruminators report reaching for others' aid more than non-ruminators, they receive less of it.

People might respond to a ruminator compassionately at first, but their compassion can wear thin if the rumination persists.
This attitude can exacerbate the problem and motivation quickly drops.

The rumination-depression link

Her studies showed that ruminators showed increase depression after the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.
This also occurred in other studies where people lost family members from terminal illness; the depression lasting for many months later.
Ruminators in other studies were found to be 4 times more likely to become depressed than non-ruminators.

Ruminators find it hard to get out of a rut because of their negative outlook.
They often lack confidence in their solutions.

Why people ruminate

According to Susan Nolen-Hoeksema such depressive rumination most often occurs in women as a reaction to sadness.
By comparison men more often focus on their emotions when they're angry, rather than sad.

Helping to cope with rumination

It's hard to divert depressive ruminators from their negative thoughts.

By directing thought elsewhere you can reduce the amount of rumination.
Distracted ruminators less often recall negative events.
People could also use other distraction techniques such as meditation and prayer.

Other cycle breakers she suggested include:

  • Taking small actions to begin solving problems.
  • Reviewing negative perceptions of events and high expectations of others.
  • Letting go of unhealthy or unattainable goals and developing multiple sources of self-esteem.

Taking opportunities

Setbacks often make you see the value of time much more clearly driving people on to grasp opportunities when they appear.


This is also discussed elsewhere (see The Complete Time Management package).
Stress is a response to a disruption of our normal state caused by external or internal factors.
If the normal body functions are unable to maintain a balance stress could be the result.

Hans Hugo Bruno Selye

Hans Hugo Bruno Selye (born Vienna, January 26, 1907 - died Montreal, October 16, 1982) was a Canadian endocrinologist of Austro-Hungarian origin.
He suggested that the response to stress was in three stages alarm, resistance and exhaustion.

He was considered the first to demonstrate the existence of a separate stress disease, the stress syndrome, or general adaptation syndrome (GAS).
In 'higher' animals stress may include activities from blood clotting, flight or fight and Play (which prepares the safe animal for serious activity).
Stress is stressful whether you receive good or bad news, whether the impulse is positive or negative.
He called negative stress ‘distress’ and positive stress ‘eustress’.
Both will lower motivation.

Later he developed the idea of two 'reservoirs' of stress resistance.
A superficial level which is restored and a deeper level which is permanently depleted when drawn upon.

It is not necessary for all three stages (alarm, resistance and exhaustion) to develop.
Only the most severe stress leads rapidly to the stage of exhaustion and death.
Most of the physical or mental exertions, infections, and other stressors, which act upon us during a limited period, produce changes corresponding only to the first and second stages.
At first they may upset and alarm us, but then we adapt to them.

The first two stages are met by everyone many times in their life to help us adapt to changes.
Many aspects of stress are reversible even when they get to the exhaustion stage, for example, running, stress on muscles then physical tiredness.