Procrastination: Dealing with Setbacks


Setbacks, oh those experiences that make you just want to quit. I have had many. You may feel ashamed, angry, hurt, confused or think that there is something wrong with you. Today, I want to talk a little about ways to avoid getting derailed by setbacks.

Setbacks can lead to procrastination in the form of avoidance. Wanting to avoid repeating that painful experience. First, please know that the process of overcoming procrastination WILL involvThe harder you falle relapses. Since it is impossible to avoid a failure or two, the key is bouncing back and pushing forward. When you do relapse, take time to reflect on the reasons for it and use that insight to improve.

Reflect: What do you want? Is this goal important to you? Why? What would it mean in your life if this goal was achieved? Are you willing to work through this difficult time for this goal?

Sometimes we procrastinate after a failed test, a receiving a grade that is lower that you where hoping for or had a social situation go badly. If we don’t take the time to address this, it hangs around, and not in a good way. You may start seeing yourself in a negative light and make that perception a part of your self-worth. Please don’t! You are not defined by “the failure” (if that’s what you want to call it), you are define by how you bounce back. This is an opportunity to learn. Take it on!

Find the magic in these life experiences.


The Fringe Benefits of Failure with J.K. Rowling

At her Harvard commencement speech, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling offers some powerful, heartening advice to dreamers and overachievers, including one hard-won lesson that she deems “worth more than any qualification I ever earned.”

If anyone knows something about magic, it is the amazing author of the Harry Potter book and movie series. Check out her Harvard Commencement speech to explore the magic that can come from failure, gain a new perspective, make a plan and confront that procrastination!

PsychNerd! Oh Yeah!

Brain Nerd


Perfectionism and coping with daily failures: positive reframing helps achieve satisfaction at the end of the day. Stoeber & Janssen, 2011

These researchers found some pretty interesting techniques that people successfully used to cope with disappointment and setbacks.

  • Acceptance – well it is what it is….yes, that happened! Ok, so now what?
  • Positive reframing – looking for the positives anywhere you can, perhaps by looking at what has been done rather than what hasn’t. What you did well and where you can go from here.
  • Humour – there is humour, even when it seems hopeless. This one is a tough one, but make an effort to find a funny perspective.


You could choose to feel worse by using these common strategies for feeling like crap: (btw, feeling like crap takes away all of your motivation and ability to persist through difficult).

  • Self-blame – “I am hopeless, stupid, horrible…”
  • Denial – “It was all their fault, they wanted me to fail”.
  • Venting – focusing on the negative experience, ignoring the upside, or what went well. Yes, it was a negative experience, but that is not the whole perspective.
  • Behavioural disengagementin other words: moping, sulking, being a baby…

One of the researchers, Professor Joachim Stoeber, gave some great advice: 

“It’s no use ruminating about small failures and setbacks and drag yourself further down. Instead it is more helpful to try to accept what happened, look for positive aspects and, if it is a small thing, have a laugh about it.”

Rock Bottom JK Rowling

Yes, setbacks are hard. I know this well. You have a choice in how you bounce back. My advice is to accept it, re-frame it (look at some of the positive aspects), make a plan going forward (keep your momentum) and don’t let procrastination get a hold of you in these difficult moments.

This is one of the emotional reasons that can lead to procrastination, the fear of trying again and the shame associated with the setback. You learn so much in these moments, take on the challenge, get moving and see what you are made of 🙂

I am not giving any advice that I am not currently using myself….


Dr. Heather Drummond,  C.Psych.

Psychologist * Passionate Advocate for Flourishing * Human Muddling Through



  1. I really enjoyed this blog! It’s always interesting to learn something from a new perspective with examples from others!

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