Dreams are impossible to achieve.
That’s why 99% of people don’t go after them and why the 1% that do, are considered extraordinary.
That doesn’t mean they are unachievable.
If you noticed, I purposely contradicted myself in the first three sentences in order to lead into the following question.
Do you agree or disagree with my opening statement?
Your answer will point toward your beliefs about pursuing your dreams. And that’s okay, because your beliefs are not fixed. I hope by the end of the article I will have convinced you of five ways to fully commit to your dreams so you never give up.
Here’s the thing: you’ve got to be purposeful about your dreams because they are your lifeblood. Most people give up too early on their dreams because in many ways following a dream is like an open water swim. It is midway through a swim when a person is likely to quit because they’re unable to see the finish and doubts emerge. But if they think how far they’ve come, it will be a disservice to give up.
If you can’t see the finish, it doesn’t mean you should give up on your dreams. Go on blind faith that you will be shown the way as you draw closer. It is a lack of faith and fear that blinds us to pursuing our dreams. It is wanting to fulfil our needs now instead of the promise of a better tomorrow that forces us to put our dreams on hold.
The pursuit of a dream is tied to answering your life’s biggest question. That question arises from within your soul and it is your mission to breathe life into it. If you leave this world without having committed yourself to finding the answer, you will have denied yourself the opportunity to experience your greatest self.
I realise life is uncompromising and we are pulled in many directions, with choices that must be made now. Some of those choices are compelling and require you to take urgent action, such as providing for your family and a roof over your head. Yet, that doesn’t mean you should put your dreams on hold just to get by.
There will come a time when you will look back and regret having made those choices. It was the English poet William Blake who once declared: “Hindsight is a wonderful thing but foresight is better, especially when it comes to saving life, or some pain!”
Irrespective of where you are in your life’s journey, I trust the following points will help you commit to your dreams and make them a reality. I recommend getting really clear and purposeful about your life, because pursuing a dream is part of that narrative. Don’t consider it separate from you, but part of you.
1. Overcome Your Fears By Living Bigger and Bolder
A Mind-Made Illusion
“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.” — Jim Morrison
In his book Influence: Science and Practice, author Robert Cialdini shares a story capturing the life-changing effects of fear. In a tribe in southern Africa, the Thonga people hold an annual initiation for the young boys in the village. A young Thonga boy must endure a series of intense physical challenges before being admitted to adulthood.
The three-month ritual comprises six major trials: beatings, exposure to cold, thirst, eating unsavoury foods, punishment and the threat of death. These strange rituals are designed to turn a young boy into a man, while silencing his inner demons. Spending three months subjected to mental, emotional and physical hardship is extreme. However, many of these young boys go on to become strong and powerful leaders in their tribes.
Despite the cruelty of the ritual, the story highlights how we can transform our fears from weakness into courage. “Fear rips up from freedom. It is the destroyer of greatness. We know this, and we know we should tame our minds in order to defeat fear. Yet look at all the adults who act like powerless children and avoid the life they want because of fear,” writes Brendon Burchard in The Motivation Manifesto.
In society, fear impairs the lives of those who buy into its false existence. It was the French philosopher René Descartes who declared: “I think therefore I am.” The fact that I’m aware of my thoughts means there’s a thinker behind the thoughts. Many people unwittingly believe: “If I think fearful thoughts, they must be true.” Yet fear is no more than an illusion created by the mind. A great deal of what we fear rarely eventuates, yet fear predominates our thought landscape.
Since fear is a survival instinct alerting us to impending danger, it becomes a threat when our thoughts are stuck in a repetitive cycle. When fear rules your life, you are at the mercy of the emotion. Psychotherapist David Richo explains in The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them: “When we look deeply into our fears, we see that, at base, every fear is a fear of not having control.”
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” — Nelson Mandela
How can we transform fear so it doesn’t impair our lives? Firstly, appreciate that fear is feedback alerting you to forward progress. It signifies you are stepping out of your comfort zone and moving into uncharted territory. Rather than oppose your fears, see it as an opportunity to gain new insights. Embrace fear as part of your personal evolution. Many people see it as a brick wall while others regard it as an opportunity to overcome.
“Fear reduces resilience and the ability to grow from trauma, and purposeful living reduces fear,” avows author Victor J. Strecher in Life on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything. Fear inspires a call to action. It advises us to avoid what is harmful to our lives and take affirmative action.
Take for example the fear of public speaking, widely considered one of people’s greatest fears. The American comedian Jerry Seinfeld states: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
It is apparent in this instance that fear forces us to brush up on our speaking skills through rehearsal. Rather than being unprepared, fear forces us to show up ready or risk being humiliated in front of an audience. As we overcome fear, we build strength of character and rise above any obstacles towards victory. Therefore, fear is a teacher providing you with the vital experience before the lesson.
The Present Moment
“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgement of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgement now.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Since fear is a future occurrence, it allows us to reconnect to the present moment when our minds wander. We are reminded of the fact that all we have is contained within this moment. There’s no need to worry or fear a future which seldom arrives as we hope, since fear reminds us to let go of the incessant thoughts of an expected tomorrow. Author Colette Baron Reid states in Uncharted: The Journey Through Uncertainty to Infinite Possibility: “One of the biggest challenges in overcoming self-centered fears is that when we’re afraid, we’re likely not in the present.”
It must be repeated, we cannot drop fear from our lives, not in the way many people believe. We can turn down the volume on fear by not becoming a slave to it. Susan Jeffers’ acclaimed self-help book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is a suitable axiom for learning to befriend fear. Take inspired action in spite of your fears and don’t cower from them in resignation. Many people are helpless in the face of their fears, because they buy into the narrative associated with it. Fear is a signal, calling you to recognise something within that needs to be addressed.
We must remind ourselves that fear helps us make better decisions in light of perceived danger. We must have our wits about us, instead of throwing ourselves unknowingly at a task. Your response to fear provides a glimpse into your psyche. Are you constantly running away from fear or facing it head on?
What are you afraid of?
Who would you be without your fears?
What would life look like?
Try to imagine a world where you are not dictated by your fears. This is the state you want to create if you are to transform your life to be bigger and bolder. Colette Baron Reid affirms that: “If you want your fear to fade away and myriad possibilities you never considered to start revealing themselves, you need a different map, one that shows the unknown, unexplored places. Those are the places your soul wants to go.”
Fear is a call towards inner growth and freedom because running away from fear makes it grow in intensity. Approach it with compassion and an open heart by forgiving yourself and others who contributed towards your fears. You might be surprised to know that our fears can be passed down through generations. Wars and hatred stem from the paralysis of fear. We fear what we don’t understand, then we ultimately go to war with it.
Invariably, if we dislike parts of ourselves, this is a call to make peace within. As you know, what you feed and nurture inside you grows stronger. David Richo reminds us that love is the antidote to fear: “The reason love casts out fear is that love creates the feeling of safety. When we act with love, we feel so good about ourselves that courage blooms. We find the poise to be at home with givens that scared us before.”
Ultimately, you have a choice: make peace with fear or allow it to control your life. Hopefully, you will be motivated to choose the former. Transcending fear is liberating since it frees you from the self-imposed fortress it creates. Fear cannot dwell inside a heart filled with love. For love is the essence of your authentic nature and fear is a nothing more than a shadow cast by the ego to protect you, not serve you.
2. Stop Surviving and Start Thriving
The Obstacle Is the Way
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.” — Maya Angelou
You are born to thrive, not just to play it safe in your comfort zone.
You might try avoiding failure because it weakens your self-esteem – although failure is a prerequisite for success. Ask any entrepreneur or adventurer, and they will tell you failure is essential. However, I do not wish to embellish this article with positive psychology to make you feel good.
For many, surviving means getting through the daily grind, only to endure the same battles all over again. This is not living because you are needlessly clutching to life. I realise you have commitments and obligations. Mouths to feed, expenses and a mortgage to pay.
Still, there’s a better way. You may want more, though life can be difficult and challenging at times. It’s worth reminding yourself, however, that the obstacle is in fact the way. Some people seem to be thriving under whatever conditions they’re faced with, while we wonder why we are stuck in our predicament. To thrive means to grow and flourish, not simply to scrape by. This is the premise of the film Groundhog Day, in which a weatherman played by actor Bill Murray, strangely lives the same day over and over again.
No one wants to get by when you have hidden potential waiting to emerge.
“You have everything you need to thrive; you just have to plan for the race of your life. Each person’s journey and process is unique. The key to adopting a disruptor’s mind-set is to honestly assess your internal value chain to overcome every obstacle in the way,” states author Jay Samit in Disrupt You: Master Personal Transformation, Seize Opportunity, and Thrive in the Era of Endless Innovation.
A Shift in Mindset
“Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.” — Maya Angelou
Those who thrive nurture their personal growth and step outside their comfort zone. Those content to merely survive are happy not to disrupt their lives because of the anxiety and tension involved. You can use tension and anxiety to give rise to creativity and opportunity.
Thriving requires a shift in mindset and taking chances on occasions. The key to thriving is recognising you are unhappy and willing to make changes, irrespective of the steps involved. There is a staleness to surviving, in that you become wearied and discontent. Your soul calls you to venture into the unknown where freedom and good fortune lies.
“Survive first, thrive later: that’s the motto of the lower brain. The well-documented tendency of our lower brain to encode negative, fear-based memories more readily into our unconscious memory than positive ones is referred to as negativity bias,” affirms author Linda Graham MFT in Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being.
No one enjoys setbacks and mediocrity because the human spirit is full of potential and purpose. Life consists of constant change, for it is sewn into the fabric of our lives. To shift from surviving to thriving, simply begin by attending to your negative thoughts. Destructive thoughts can run deep into a person’s psyche if left unchecked. Replace the negativity by addressing the underlying beliefs supporting them.
You cannot move from surviving to thriving in days or weeks. Personal development is a journey of self-discovery and the pinnacle of achievement. You deserve to have more and be more. But, you must take the first step and move forward in that direction.
Dr. Alex Lickerman reinforces this thought in The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self. “Indeed, the ability to soldier on when obstacles block our way to any goal, whether our life’s mission or our most trivial wish, has to be considered as much a part of resilience as the ability to survive and thrive in the face of adversity.”
Thriving Is a State of Mind
“Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill… I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together…” — Marcus Aurelius
Don’t be concerned getting from point A to B in the shortest time. For as soon as you arrive, there will be another place for you to transition to. Take responsibility for your life by choosing your conditions, instead of blaming outside circumstances.
As you know, victims are stuck in a despairing mindset, believing the world owes them something. They contend life conspires against them, without realising they create their own circumstances. It helps to know what you want from life. I’m not talking about superficial things such as the car you drive or house you live in. Yet something deeper: your purpose, what kindles your spirit and makes you come alive?
I realise this is difficult for many to answer. Though it is important to know what is of significance to you.
“When in survive mode, thriving takes a back seat. Although many opportunities might arise for a shift to a positive thriving mode, the brain with this narrowed focus is incapable of registering and capitalizing on them; this is part of what keeps the negative vortex going. Negativity is therefore a self-reinforcing and self-fulfilling mechanism in the brain,” states author Shirzad Chamine in Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential and How You Can Achieve Yours.
Thriving is a state of mind in as much as surviving is a negative state of mind. Therefore, shift your awareness from negativity to what is working in your life. There is nothing novel about surviving. If you remain in this state for too long, your spirit contracts. This is tied to the deeper purpose for your life, regardless of whether you know about it. We all want to find meaning in our lives. However, if you do not make empowered decisions, you relinquish it to your unconscious desires.
“This old, struggling ‘you’ is not natural or ‘real’. Your higher self is the most natural ‘self’ for you to be. You were meant to thrive. But you’ll only find this out when you take action,” avows Steve Chandler in Time Warrior: How to Defeat Procrastination, People-Pleasing, Self-Doubt, Over-Commitment, Broken Promises and Chaos.
Take small steps without being fixed on the destination. Ultimately, your journey is one of self-discovery. The journey is filled with highs and lows. The lows help you to master yourself, so you gain lessons significant to your personal growth. As a final point, refuse to accept negative conditions being permanent. It was Charlie Chaplin who quipped; “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles.” Knowing you were born to thrive is motivating, since there is more to your life’s narrative than you presume. It involves merging into a grander version of the life you only thought possible.
3. Don’t Wait For The Perfect Conditions, Take Action Now
Career and Relationships
“Stop waiting for the perfect day or moment….take THIS day, THIS moment and lead it to perfection.” – Dr. Steve Maraboli
For many things, we wait around for the perfect conditions to go after our dreams. The problem is it sets us up for disappointment, stagnation, and failure. There’s never a perfect time or day. The universe comprises moving energy, so you can be moving and creating positive momentum, or you can sit still in stagnation. The choice is yours.
Authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan state in The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, “Happiness is what we most want— yet, it’s what most of us understand the least. No matter our motivations, most of what we do in life is ultimately meant to make us happy. And yet we get it wrong. Happiness doesn’t happen the way we think.”
If you are in a career or a relationship you tolerate, but don’t appreciate, external factors control you and your hopes of a happy life. If you’re not happy, don’t you think it’s time to do something about it? Or perhaps you’ve tried to change your situation, to no avail. Perhaps, it’s time to try something different? You deserve a fulfilling life with a career and relationships you enjoy. Everyone does. If you’ve settled in areas in your life, due to other people’s expectations or societal norms, it’s time to take a stand and declare you won’t tolerate it any longer.
The American spiritual teacher Adyashanti says, “The keys to your happiness are no longer in anyone else’s pocket from the past. They’re in yours.” It is time to make a list of things you want and create action steps to propel you forward.
A Wonderful Life Is Available Now
“Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys. If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it.”—Fyodor Dostoevsky
Most people want a happy life and seek ‘objects’ and ‘people’ to make them happy. Happiness does not arise from things and people, it comes from within. It requires cultivating happiness through the journey of life. It takes a season to slow down, contemplate life, face your pain, ask the hard questions and challenge yourself.
Consider for a moment Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener’s perspective in The Upside of Your Dark Side: “To put it succinctly, we humans are horrible at guessing how happy we will feel in the future, and yet we base important life decisions on these flawed predictions. We purchase TVs, plan retirement, and say yes to dinner dates all because of an imperfect guess about how happy they will make us.”
I assure you, a happy life is available to you now.
What Are You Willing To Do Different?
“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”—H. Jackson Brown
If you want to settle where you are, I respect it, but don’t encourage it. Maybe you’re indifferent and offer the common phrase: “I’m fine” when asked how you are, but you’re miserable inside. You say you want a better life but you’re not willing to do anything different. You’re unwilling to travel a road you haven’t travelled before. You may be scared or tired. I understand, but you can do better. Everyone can, despite external conditions.
I’ve experienced periods in my life where I wasn’t happy. Not that I didn’t want to be happy, I didn’t know how to be. I knew how to keep pressing forward no matter what. I believed I could find happiness. Even though it didn’t come in the way I expected and might not show up the way you expect, yet there’s a wellspring of happiness within you. As soon as you acknowledge it, you’ll realise life has more to offer—even if nothing has yet changed in your life.
“Becoming more engaged in what we do by finding ways to make our life more meaningful is the surest way to finding lasting happiness. When our daily actions fulfil a bigger purpose, the most powerful and enduring happiness can happen,” writes Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. Stop waiting for the perfect moment to be happy or accomplished. Make your happiness a priority. Tell your partner, your boss, you friends, and your family you will change the situation, with the first thing being your perspective.
You will stop trying to meet other people’s expectations. You will discover who you are and a joy bubbling within you, waiting for you to release it. Today is the perfect day to acknowledge your success, your happiness, and your fulfilled dreams. You don’t need to wait for the right circumstances to happen. Life is what we make of it, so make your dreams come true. Beginning today.
4. Commit To Your Dreams, Regardless of External Conditions
Nothing is Permanent
“We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” — Frank Tibolt
As you know success requires having a dream and creating an action plan that propels you towards them. But when you are on your path to success and feel stagnant or stuck in the same spot — what do you do then? How do you navigate your way forward when nothing seems to go to plan?
There’s an old song which echoes the lyrics: I Never Promised You A Rose Garden. When I hear it, I’m reminded of the sentiments in the song line that we are not promised optimal conditions throughout our lives. There is no Santa Claus handing out our desires on a silver platter. Life will never be as we hope for and we must come to terms with that. Things that we don’t plan for happen unexpectedly. Things don’t go as planned, and it’s important to know that despite this, we will be ok. Life is a wonderful journey despite the setbacks, failures, trials and temptations.
Author Mary O’Malley explains in What’s in the Way Is the Way: A Practical Guide for Waking Up to Life: “Everything in your life — especially your challenges — is tailor-made to help you see your stories of struggle. Whatever is in the way is the way!” Nothing is permanent except your thoughts about a situation. All things have a used by date. Even your struggles and pain have a finite life, unless you give them more energy than they deserve.
I recall speaking with a respected child physician when my nephew was hospitalised for pneumonia. He observed that children have amazing healing abilities because they don’t add meaning and context to their illness, like adults. While they feel lousy one moment, they bounce back just as quick, since they don’t ruminate on their illness which slows the healing process. We should take a leaf out of their book and step back from the chaos of our lives, so we can also recover quickly from our setbacks.
Growth Requires Perseverance
“Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold — but so does a hard-boiled egg.”—Author Unknown
I enjoy the statement: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Learning to dance in the rain should be our objective because if happiness and inner peace is what we want, it is still possible despite outward circumstances. In the statement, the rain symbolises trials, setbacks and frustrations. Therefore, don’t focus on what you cannot control, but lean towards what is within your power. It is about persevering through unfortunate circumstances and choosing to enjoy the present moment.
“Serenity comes not only from accepting what we cannot change but from giving up trying to be in control,” states psychotherapist David Richo in: The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them. Life is what you make of it. I’m not stating something new, but reminding you there are two ways of looking at your circumstance, yet we focus attention on what is wrong instead of what could be right.
It is about optimal growth.
Don’t Lose Heart
“The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Life is full of twists and turns, some of them contain unexpected situations where you struggle with: frustration, sadness, and hopelessness. Don’t be discouraged when they show up but learn to weather the storm. Things will not go as you expect, keep moving forward, anyway. “If you rise from a fall once, you become that much more confident you can rise again,” reminds author Sam Weinman in Win at Losing: How Our Biggest Setbacks Can Lead to Our Greatest Gains.
There will always be something not right with where you are in your journey. If you focus on what is right or what you’ve accomplished, your attitude will be better. You will be grateful and content no matter what surrounds you or how long it takes to achieve your dreams. You will be happy instead of disheartened.
Don’t lose heart.
Take Inspired Action
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” – Vincent van Gogh
Dreams are inspiring. Every person should have a dream to work towards. Besides, it is important to create an inspired action plan that will help you achieve your dreams. By inspired I mean pursuing a cause that means something to you. Take inspired action towards your dreams so you create momentum and move towards them. As you take the smallest step forward, your energy propels you in that direction, and the momentum carries you over the bumps in the road.
Founder of Mindvalley Vishen Lakhiani writes in The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms: “Have big goals — but don’t tie your happiness to your goals. You must be happy before you attain them.” As you go to work, universal intelligence brings forth your desires and dreams. No matter the circumstances, inspired action should be taken so you are progressing. The right conditions to thrive and prosper reside in your thoughts, not in outward circumstances. If your attitude is in alignment with your dreams, you’re well on your way to accomplishing them.
Just Do It
“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.”— Og Mandino
Is it taking longer for you to accomplish your dreams? Just keep taking the next step. Are you frustrated with obstacles and setbacks? Trust the process and the journey that is unfolding. It is leading you somewhere but not where you imagine. You won’t know until you get there, so for now release your worries, judgement and frustration and settle in for the ride. Enjoy where you are, on the way to where you are going. Take heart, knowing you will accomplish your dreams in due time.
Think of a garden. It’s important to have good soil to produce fruit, but the soil need not be perfect to bring forth a harvest. The same goes for you. Your life doesn’t have to be perfect or problem free to reach your dreams, or enjoy happiness now. Authors Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener remind us of this truth in The Upside of Your Dark Side: “Unfortunately, avoiding problems also means avoiding finding the solutions to those problems.” Focus on what is good and what is going right and continue to take inspired action towards your dreams. Afterall, just do it no matter what the conditions and you will achieve something meaningful owing to your commitment and perseverance.
5. Think Long Term To Overcome Temporary Setbacks
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s easier to obsess over setbacks, than to try to play the long game when it comes to your dreams. After all, obstacles are real while the future is promised to no one. Disappointments have a way of overpowering you, however, they are just one aspect of your life. The key is to continually move forward and to not become caught up in your problems for too long.
You mustn’t allow what is taking place to overshadow your long-term plans. It was Henry Ford who said: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” Like buried treasure, opportunities are hidden in your setbacks if you are willing to look hard enough. Once the anxiety settles, you come to realise the real account emerges.
Life should be measured in its entirety, not by your failures. If you’re lucky enough, you will live a long life. So, 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, your setbacks may be real, but you will overcome them to the best of your 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. Move your awareness away from negativity and consider the long-term view. What could be taking place behind the scenes that you are unaware of? Is there is a hidden lesson contained within the setback?
Self-Control and Discipline
The value of adopting a long-term view is in not taking things too seriously because ultimately it will resolve itself if you are patient. You must develop a clear picture of your intended 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. You must adopt self-control and discipline to think long-term.
No one knows what the future holds, but if you have a purposeful vision of what it might look like, you can overcome your short term pain. “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,” states author Larry Weidel in Serial Winner: 5 Actions to Create Your Cycle of Success.
Long-term thinking helps you appreciate that things will improve and you are never trapped in your present circumstances. Time tests your inner resolve, your strength of character and your ability to withstand present conditions. Emotional growth occurs when you 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 think far ahead. We are conditioned to deal 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 our dreams. To think long-term, develop an introspective outlook while reviewing your plans for the future.
Imagine Your Proposed Future
“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”— Confucius
Take action however small, whether it be things such as 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:
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, your relationship with time influences every aspect of your life. So if you dwell on the past, you are less likely to appreciate the present moment and plan for the future. The key to long term thinking is to imagine your proposed future through the power of your imagination. Focus on the smaller destinations instead of the larger picture.
“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.
Focus on the Long Game
There is always some action to take however small, to move you forward towards your dreams. Long-term thinking is something I’ve followed throughout my adult life. Whilst others 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: “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 your 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,” says 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 to achieve your dreams. That is where the fruit of your labour lies waiting for you to seize it, rather than dwell on your past mistakes.