Bad news and setbacks can catch us all out from time to time, creeping up on us unexpectedly, sometimes with little or no warning. We may react angrily at first, looking for someone to blame, or shed tears and feel incredulous, wondering, ‘why me, what have I done to deserve this?’

But life doesn’t always go to plan and bad news and setbacks have their role in life. It’s not uncommon for people to afterwards reflect and appreciate the lessons learned and valuable connections made through having to deal with those tough times.

There are many areas that can be fraught and catch us unawares:

The ending of a relationship is one area that is familiar to many of us. Even if the end has been brewing for some time it can still be a shock when the final moments arrive. Healing can take a while, as we reconcile to what’s happened, lick our wounds and start to build a new life.

It may teach us about ourselves, about what we want and don’t want from a relationship, who are friends are. We may need to retreat into ourselves for a while, spend some time on our own. But equally, being in a relationship is an important experience that enables us to learn a lot about ourselves and about living in a world where we have to share and accommodate others.

– Our business or position at work may become untenable. Our role may have changed or even the company structure may be being overhauled. If redundancy is being mooted, or an important contract or contact has not materialised, cut backs may have to be made and it could be a good time to consider our options as well as our financial position and security.

Post-lockdown may be when we decide to action our revised priorities, having started to think differently about what really matters in life. Money and acquisitions may have become less important than time with family, friends, living with less stress, and enjoying our hobbies and interests.

Alternative options often come into their own at a time like this, maybe prompting decisions to down-size our home, go into self-employment, develop a part-time business which works with hours to suit, but also allows us to develop a new interest, consultancy role or career.

Might it be time to let a change in work provide the focus for developing a side hustle; trading more on eBay, turning a talent for organising, software design, baking, dog walking into more of a business.

Some people appreciate being able to barter or exchange their goods and services for things they need. It’s a system that can work to everyone’s advantage, as they utilise their existing skills, pass on what they don’t need or build relationships, support their community and develop their reputation.

– Fit and healthy people sometimes get hit with a devastating blow when their health situation is impacted and they become unable to work or maybe live an active life anymore. Everything has to change. They have to live with a very different vision of their future now.

Learning to adapt, cope with and reconcile to altered circumstances requires learning new ways of functioning. Paying attention to attitude and mental health can be essential as a way of dealing with the myriad of emotions that often surface. When faced with a serious health diagnosis, there’s often a need to grieve for the lost future, and work through many emotions; frustration, anger, depression, despair, until finally some form of acceptance eventually arrives.

– Tough times teach us who are real friends are. Fair weather friends are great fun when the sun’s shining and everything’s going well, but sometimes there’s a role for foul-weather friends, those people who are there when we need someone to listen to our woes, console us and help us find our feet again. Both are important additions to our lives.

– Problems give us an opportunity to road test and really trial our plans. Will they survive challenges and obstacles, what are our contingency plans? It’s all very well when things work out as expected but bad news and setbacks give us time to reevaluate what we’re doing, how we deal with complaints, failures and unexpected limitations.

– Could interesting opportunities and detours present themselves as options? Sometimes taking another route for a while can provide unconsidered, exciting directions to move in, ways that perhaps would not have previously been thought viable. It’s not always necessary to move directly from A to B; sometimes trying out other options, exploring new ways of working can be fun and offer invaluable experiences.

It’s important to have situations that prompt us to recall the good times, the successes and positive results. It’s at those times that we can reflect on our skills and talents and dig deep, knowing that we have the resources, contacts and experience to overcome challenges and move forward. Then we can enjoy the opportunities that present themselves when life doesn’t go to plan.

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