Setbacks (and why we possibly need them in life)

Words by Francesca Castandiello

On Dit Magazine
4 min readOct 3, 2018


Going way back into our childhood, many of us are familiar with the notion that “hard work always pays off”, or that things, without fail, will turn out the way we want to as long as we put in the effort. In primary school, as long as we completed our homework and tidied up after recess, we would always come home with a big star stamped on the back of our hands to proudly show off to our parents with a pleased grin. It was this kind of harmless naivety that led us to believe as adults that the world is a piece of cake as long as we did what was told in the manual of life. Contrary to this childhood perspective, growing older has unfortunately made me realise that this is not entirely true. If you are still yet to experience your good share of them, setbacks are something that temporarily impede our success and progress, and are also (to the dismay of many) an inevitable part of life.

Getting that disappointing C grade, a rejected job application, failing a driving test, losing the championship league, an overly demanding boss, or the general feeling of helplessness — these are all setbacks that take shape in various forms. Just a year ago, I was faced with a piece of news that rendered all the blood, sweat and tears that I have shed the past eleven months of school futile and to no avail. I received a call informing me that I did not receive an offer on a program that I have been dreaming of getting into since I was fourteen. I spent the next few weeks convincing myself that I did my best, yet I was still confounded by the fact that all the effort I exerted did not really pay off at all. In my mind, I thought that working hard always (I mean ALWAYS) meant you will get what you want right away — but this notion failed me at that time.

It was not until six months later and after lodging another application despite my growing apprehension to fail again that I eventually received an email stating that I was finally accepted into the program I have always wanted. This incident opened my eyes to the reality of the world, and for someone who isn’t used to experiencing life hiccups like this, this was merely a test on whether I was strong enough to bounce back and rise above it.

Millenials hate waiting, but in reality, certain things take time.

The world we live in has no doubt become increasingly high-tech throughout the years, where people like us who were born around the late 20th century are just so accustomed to everything happening in a snap of a finger — be it video calling someone living across the planet in high definition video, cooking a meal out of a packet, sending live photos through countless media platforms or even getting an Uber which now usually takes less than ten minutes. We want things to happen as fast as they can and when we want it to happen. But the thing is, not everything can be earned all at once. People do not traverse their way through life in a completely straight path, as most of the time, there are obstacles that we come across and eventually have to overcome in order to keep moving forward. These hindrances slow us down and it may even make us take a moment to pause and re-evaluate life at some point — and that’s normal. Our love for expediting processes in life for the sake of instant gratification is overrated. It’s a clichéd term for most people, but the truth is, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that means one cannot be successful in a span of twenty-four hours. Joy and fulfilment takes time, and achieving those things is a product of waiting and enduring all the curveballs life throws at you.

Detours in life are okay.

Didn’t get what you wanted the first time? That’s okay. It may be necessary for some of us to embark on less direct and slightly crooked paths to achieve the outcome we want, but life is all about the journey right? Sometimes having to go through countless of gruelling jobs and dealing with perverse colleagues makes landing your dream job a million times more rewarding. Having to experience a number of heartbreaks only lays the groundwork that ultimately prepares us to do the right thing when the right person comes into our life. Pain equates to growth and growth makes one equipped to deal with adversities better in the future. To quote the acclaimed Paul Coelho, “We make a lot of detours, but we’re always heading for the same destination”. Delayed success simply reminds us that even humans make mistakes, and the more willing we are to accept that reality means we are creating more space to learn, grow and use these setbacks as stepping stones to personal development and success.

Setbacks make us imperfectly human.

Commencing a new year and a new and unfamiliar stage of your life, will always be terrifying in the beginning. Living life without having to struggle at all makes life too easy and stagnant. We humans are programmed to experience the entire spectrum of emotions and happiness is just one of them. What makes life worth living is braving the anxiety, sadness, nervousness, and fears of life because the only way we can truly appreciate happiness is knowing what it’s like to be without it even for a short while.



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