Life Should Be Measured In Its Entirety
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
To dwell on our setbacks instead of playing the long game in life can be significant to our emotional wellbeing. Obstacles are real while the future is promised to no one. Disappointments can overwhelm us, though they are just one aspect of our life. The key is to keep moving forward and not get caught up in our problems for too long. We mustn’t allow what is holding us back to overshadow our long-term plans. Henry Ford said: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” Opportunities are concealed in our setbacks if we’re willing to look hard enough. It is once the anxiety settles that we will truly appreciate what we’re dealing with.
It is human nature to catastrophise situations that are not as bleak as they appear. The mind has an inherent negativity bias owing to thousands of years of evolution. That’s why life should be measured in its entirety, not by our failures. I equate it to visiting an art exhibition and observing a painting from six inches away. We’re only likely to see bold brush strokes from close up and not the entire masterpiece. However, if we step back and observe it from a proper distance, we will notice the beauty of the canvas as a complete picture. Many people focus on one aspect of their life not going to plan and judge the entirety of their life by this one measure.
If you’re lucky enough, you will live a long life. So, avoid giving too much attention to your setbacks, since you’re likely to bounce back from them. Don’t exaggerate what is taking place. Does this make sense insofar as setbacks are real, but you will overcome them to the best of your ability? It is part of the human condition, to overcome, grow and expand into a greater version of yourself. Therefore, cast your attention away from negativity and what is not working and focus on your long-term plans. Consider the following questions when you find yourself caught up in negativity: What could be taking place behind the scenes I’m unaware of? Are there hidden lessons contained within my setbacks?
You Are Never Trapped In Your Current Circumstances
“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”—Confucius
The value of adopting a long-term view means we don’t take life seriously because ultimately problems will resolve themselves if we are patient. We must develop a clear picture of our intended future, instead of focusing on the setback. Recall the mind’s negativity bias I mentioned earlier? It requires vigilance and purpose to readjust our focus and worth the effort if we’re to succeed. Obstacles are part of life. Whilst they’re difficult to deal with, they allow for crucial personal growth for the journey ahead. Knowing this, we must adopt self-control and discipline as we think long-term.
No one knows what the future holds, but if we have a purposeful vision of what it might look, we can overcome our short-term pain. Long-term thinking helps us to appreciate that conditions will improve and we are never trapped in our current circumstances. Time tests our inner resolve, our strength of character and our ability to withstand difficult conditions. Emotional growth occurs when we allow a situation to play out as it should instead of hoping for an easy path. An easy life seldom leads to the fruit at the end of the branch. It is difficult to take a long-term view at times because our minds are not accustomed to thinking that far ahead. We are used to dealing with what is taking place before us and have a limited view of what tomorrow will bring. This comes at a cost to our mental wellbeing because if we follow this script, we are constantly putting out spot fires instead of working on our big-picture goals. To think long-term, we ought to set our sights on the future and review our plans to get there.
We must take action however small, whether it be through self-reinforcement, affirmations or visualisations. Success is contained in the smallest details. The key to long-term thinking is to imagine our proposed future and 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 injured (setback), this will make it difficult to exercise and achieve your goal. You could choose to focus on the setback or what you are capable of doing during this period. Use the time to tweak 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.
Focus On The Long Game
“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”—Napoleon Hill
Is this beginning to make sense insofar as there is always something we can do however small, to move us forward towards your goals? Long-term thinking is something I’ve pursued throughout my adult life. Whilst others excelled in individual areas and gained instant results, I focused on long-term outcomes. I experience setbacks and obstacles like most people, though 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. This is the essence of the message here: using your setbacks as a stepping stone for future success. It is what esteemed Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls developing a Growth Mindset. “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 Carol Dweck.
To overcome setbacks, we must recognise it as a minor blip 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 instead of a Fixed Mindset. Consequently, I invite you to focus on the long game for your life and not get mired in your short-term setbacks. Charlie Chaplin said: “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world – not even our troubles. Therefore, take some time this week to journal in your diary or piece of paper, what lessons your current setbacks are offering you? Perhaps you are being protected from something? It may might be that you need to develop certain skills or talents before moving forward? In spite of everything, the gift of your hard work and commitment requires seizing opportunities as they arise, instead of dwelling on your past mistakes.