Checklist for Getting Over a Setback

I’m an eternal optimist and almost always have a smile on my face. Ask anyone who knows me. But even I’ve had “one of those days” every once and a while. You know what I’m talking about – those days when you just don’t feel like yourself. Or maybe you’ve had a hard time and you’re in a rut. Getting back to normal can seem impossible. That’s why psychologist Dr. Michael Nuccitelli created this checklist to help get us over any setback.

Checklist for Getting Over a Setback

by Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D

The trick is to practice as many of the tips as you can, check off each one you finish and I guarantee you will be feeling better in no time at all. Please “Do Not Pass Go” until you have completed step one. Without insight into step one, the other nine will have no bearing on your ascent to vim and vigor. It’s what the doctor recommends.

1.  Accept Your Setback: It is important to accept your setback has happened or is in the process of occurring. The goal is not lamenting over the “whys” of the setback and who is to blame. If you are responsible for the setback, remember to prevent it from happening again in the future. If the setback is not your responsibility, do not become entrenched in trying to figure out why it happened to you. Accept the setback and move on. The longer you belabor the reasons for the setback(s), the longer it will take to recalibrate your sense of control.

2.  The STDAF Method: Use a common therapy technique I have recommended to clients and colleagues hundreds of times over the years. It is called “Stop, Think, Decide, Act, and Feel.” This is a cognitive technique used to help people focus on their thinking patterns and how to change them. Memorize this technique, say it to yourself often and apply it to actions you may take generated by the setback.

When you feel negative, “Stop.”

“Think” about why you are feeling negative, which is likely directly related to your setback(s).

“Decide” that you have a choice to feel ineffective or empowered.

Once you have decided to choose an inspired path, “Act” upon your decision.

Given that your actions are likely to yield positive results, “Feel” good that you are a vibrant person with a great head on your shoulders.

3.  Self-Image Pampering: Spend some time and money on self-image improvement. Whatever you typically do to help feel better about your image — allocate some time and a little money to get it done.

Even more importantly, engage in something you have always wanted to do that will help you feel more attractive. Anything you can do about improving your self-image will help you feel more confident. Whether alone or with friends, set aside time, effort and money to treating yourself to a day of pampering. A massage, a new hairstyle, new shoes or anything else you deem as a “Wow, I feel good” thing falls into this step on your list of empowerment.

4.  The Breakup Letter: Write a goodbye letter to your setback. This may sound silly, but sitting down and writing a letter to say goodbye to your setback will help you move on from the impact the setback has caused you.

Once you have written this letter, you can share it with a friend or simply save it to read down the road to reflect on your past trials and tribulations. This simple technique helps you to gain perspective and minimizes the impact the setback(s) will have going forward.

5. Set A New Goal: Whether the goal is small or large, set yourself a new goal and make sure to complete that goal. People always become more confident when they complete tasks they have set for accomplishment. Once you have attained this goal, it is important to tell loved ones about what you have achieved. Remember, these goals can be small or big and will help you feel in control of your life.

Dr. Michael Nuccitelli is a New York State licensed psychologist and certified forensic consultant. His areas of expertise include forensic/criminal psychology, human sexuality, health/wellness and psychiatric/psychological issues. Check out his forensics blog, Dark Psychology, at


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2 replies
  1. Rosemary
    Rosemary says:

    Wow, it was like the article was written by a close friend showing real empathy & encouragement. Great tips we “all” need. Thanks for sharing insightfulness of a psych. guru, & NO Bill ! – The dude is pretty easy on the eye too !


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