What is the Key to Overcome Short Term Setbacks?

man wearing red hoodie facing backward walks along footpath cheer up between bush green grass in foggy weather
by Tony Fahkry

Life Should Be Measured In Its Entirety

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

To dwell on your setbacks instead of playing the long game in life can be significant to your emotional wellbeing.

Obstacles are real while the future is promised to no one.

Disappointments can overwhelm you, though they are just one aspect of your life. The key is to keep moving forward and not get caught up in your problems for too long.

You mustn’t allow what is holding you back right now 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.”

Opportunities are concealed in your setbacks if you’re willing to look hard enough. It is once the anxiety settles that you will understand what you’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 your failures.

I equate it to visiting an art exhibition and observing a painting from six inches away. You’re only likely to see bold brush strokes from that close up and not the entire masterpiece.

However, if you step back and observe it from a proper distance, you 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.

Yes, setbacks may seem 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.

Author Amy Morin explains in 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do that keeping an eye on your long-term plans helps you to keep the big picture in mind instead of staying mired in your setbacks: “If you can remember to look at your long-term goals, however, it will help you put setbacks into perspective.”

Cast your attention away from negativity and what is not working and focus on your long-term plans.

Consider the following questions instead of getting 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 is in not taking life seriously because ultimately problems will resolve themselves if you are patient.

Develop a clear picture of your intended future, instead of focusing on the setback. Recall the mind’s negativity bias I mentioned earlier?

It requires vigilance and purpose to readjust your focus and is worth the effort if you’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.

In light of this, adopt self-control and discipline as you 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.

Author Larry Weidel writes in Serial Winner: 5 Actions to Create Your Cycle of Success how failures and setbacks serve a function in your life, not to defeat you but promote you: “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 you to appreciate that things will improve and you are never trapped in your current circumstances.

Time tests your inner resolve, your strength of character and your ability to withstand difficult conditions. Emotional growth occurs when you 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.

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 big-picture goals.

To think long-term, set your sights on the future and review your plans to get there. Look within as you plan ahead and move towards your dreams and greater ambitions.

short term setbacks

Imagine Your Proposed Future

How many people are completely successful in every department of life? Not one. The most successful people are the ones who learn from their mistakes and turn their failures into opportunities ~Zig Ziglar

Take action however small, whether it be through self-reinforcement, affirmations or visualisations.

Success is contained 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:

  • Past-negative
  • Past-positive
  • Present-fatalistic
  • Present-hedonistic
  • Future
  • 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, your relationship with time influences aspects of your life. So if you dwell on the past, you are less likely to appreciate the present moment or the future.

The key to long-term thinking is to imagine your proposed future. 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.

“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,” states author Adam Markel in Pivot: The Art and Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life.

Focus On The Long Game

Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure ~ Napoleon Hill

There is always something you can do however small, to move you 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.

I enjoy author Whitney Johnson’s view in 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.”

This is the framework of this article: 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, 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.

It was Charlie Chaplin who once said: “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world ­– not even our troubles”.

The gift of your hard work and commitment requires seizing opportunities as they arise instead of dwelling on your past mistakes.

To learn more about how to overcome challenges see: How to Overcome your Challenges

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