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Why Long Term Thinking Can Help You Overcome Temporary Setbacks

To overcome a setback, recognise it as a minor process in what is a greater plan unfolding.

Hidden Lessons

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes we obsess over setbacks than to try to play the long game in life because our obstacles are real while the future is promised to no one.

Can you identify with this? How does it feel when you are faced with repeated obstacles and setbacks?

Disappointments have a way of overpowering us, however, we must consider they are just one aspect of our life. The key is to continually move forward and not get caught up in our problems for too long.

We mustn’t allow what is taking place to overshadow our long-term plans. It was Henry Ford who once said: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” He knew that setbacks are not the end of the world but often a gift from above with a breakthrough around the corner.

Like buried treasure, opportunities are hidden in our setbacks if we are willing to look hard enough. Once the anxiety settles, we are able to see what is lurking behind the scenes.

Life should be measured in its entirety, not by our failures. If you’re lucky enough, you will live a long life. So, it makes sense to avoid giving too much attention to your setbacks, since you are likely to bounce back from them. That is, don’t overstate what is taking place.

We have a tendency towards a negativity bias which gets the better of us. Yes, our setbacks are real, but we will overcome them to the best of our ability.

“If you can remember to look at your long-term goals, however, it will help you put setbacks into perspective,” affirms author Amy Morin in 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.

We must shift our awareness away from negativity and consider the long-term view. What could be taking place behind the scenes that we are unaware of? Is there is a hidden lesson contained within the setback?

“An artist with a tattoo on his arm working at a desk” by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Self-Control and Discipline

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” — Confucius

The value of adopting a long-term view is in not taking life too seriously because ultimately it will resolve itself if we are patient. We must develop a clear picture of our future, instead of focusing on the setback.

Obstacles are part of every person’s life. Whilst they are difficult to deal with, they allow for vital personal growth for the journey ahead. Self-control and discipline are often necessary companions if we wish to think long-term.

No one knows what the future holds, but if we have a purposeful vision of what it might look like, we can overcome our short term pain more than we realise.

Author Larry Weidel explains in Serial Winner: 5 Actions to Create Your Cycle of Success that failures and setbacks can be used to fuel our personal growth and provide the impetus to improve: “Failures, setbacks, bad luck, disasters; they are there to serve you, not hold you back. They toughen you up and drive you to improve. Frustration fuels growth. It gives you the energy and resolve to clean yourself up, get organized, fix what you can, and take the next step,”

Long-term thinking helps us to appreciate that circumstance will improve and we are never trapped in our present conditions. Time tests our inner resolve, our strength of character and our ability to withstand any condition. Emotional growth occurs when we allow a situation to play out as it should.

It is difficult to take a long-term view because our minds are not accustomed to thinking far ahead into the future. We are accustomed to dealing with what is taking place now and typically have a limited view of tomorrow. That comes at a cost to our wellbeing, because if we follow this script we are constantly putting out spot fires instead of working on larger goals.

To think long-term, we must develop an introspective outlook while reviewing our plans for the future.

“A guy standing in a field outside looking up at the sunset in Wooburn Green” by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Imagine Your Proposed Future

“You need to change your self-talk in order to shift the story you’re telling yourself about setbacks and adversity. You need to seek the insight or wisdom in challenging moments.” — Adam Markel

The key is to take action however small, whether it be via: self-reinforcement, affirmations or visualisations. Success is found in the smallest details.

In his book The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life, psychologist and professor at Stanford University, Philip Zimbardo, states there are six time paradoxes that shape our lives:

1. Past-negative
 2. Past-positive
 3. Present-fatalistic
 4. Present-hedonistic
 5. Future
 6. Transcendental-future

If you wish to take an inventory of your time perspective, I encourage you to complete the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory test online.

Based on his principles, our relationship with time influences every aspect of our life. So if we dwell on the past, we are less likely to appreciate the present moment and plan for the future. The key to long term thinking is to imagine our proposed future through the power of our imagination. Focus on the smaller destinations instead of the larger picture.

For example, if your goal is to lose 10 kg (22 lbs) by the end of the year and you are suddenly injured (setback), this will make it difficult to exercise and adhere to your goal. However, you could focus on the setback or what you can do during this period.

Use the time to fine-tune your nutritional habits by consuming fewer carbohydrates, owing to inactivity. Later, when you can exercise again you are likely to enhance your weight loss due to following sound nutritional habits.

“You need to change your self-talk in order to shift the story you’re telling yourself about setbacks and adversity. You need to seek the insight or wisdom in challenging moments,” affirms author Adam Markel in Pivot: The Art and Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Focus on the Long Game

“As I have grappled with my own failures, and as I have watched others dealing with setbacks, I have observed several responses that seem to ameliorate failure, transforming it into a stepping-stone to future success.” — Whitney Johnson

There is often a process to move us forward towards our goals. Long-term thinking is something I’ve followed throughout my adult life. Whilst others have excelled in individual areas and gained immediate results, I focused on long-term outcomes.

I experience setbacks and obstacles like most others, yet I don’t allow it to consume me. When I find myself stuck in a situation, I consider it a minor speed hump in what is a long journey.

I enjoy author Whitney Johnson’s view in her book Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work in which she writes: “As I have grappled with my own failures, and as I have watched others dealing with setbacks, I have observed several responses that seem to ameliorate failure, transforming it into a stepping-stone to future success.”

That is the framework of this entire piece — using our setbacks as a stepping stone for future success. It is what esteemed Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls developing a Growth Mindset. “Dweck says it’s difficult to maintain confidence in a fixed mind-set without distorting the world, such as acting defensively or blaming someone or something else for setbacks,” writes Peter Sims in Little Bets: How breakthrough ideas emerge from small discoveries.

To overcome a setback, recognise it as a minor process in what is a greater plan unfolding. Deal with what is taking place by all means, but use the lessons to develop a Growth Mindset.

I invite you to focus on the long game for your life rather than dwell on your past mistakes. That is where the fruit of your labour lies waiting for you. Afterall, the future is promised to no one and that in itself can be both a blessing and curse whichever way you look at it.

 

Originally published at Medium

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