How to Regain Your Perspective When You Lose It

It’s easy to lose perspective if you immerse yourself in the river of daily news. Things appear to be bad—and they are getting worse! The end of the world as we know it is right around the corner.

Storm Clouds Meet Sunshine - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/imagedepotpro, Image #15105128

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/imagedepotpro

But things are not always what they seem.

I have been intrigued by a new book called Abundance: Why the Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. Acknowledging that we will experience bumps along the way to the future, the authors point out that progress is made even in the worst of times:

The twentieth century, for example, witnessed both incredible advancement and unspeakable tragedy. The 1918 in?uenza epidemic killed fifty million people, World War II killed another sixty million. There were tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, ?res, floods, even plagues of locust. Despite such unrest, this period also saw infant mortality decrease by 90 percent, maternal mortality decrease by 99 percent, and, overall, human lifespan increase by more than 100 percent. In the past two decades, the United States has experienced tremendous economic upheaval. Yet today, even the poorest Americans have access to a telephone, television, and a flush toilet—three luxuries that even the wealthiest couldn’t imagine at the turn of the last [19th] century. In fact, as will soon be clear, using almost any metric currently available, quality of life has improved more in the past century than ever before. So while there are likely to be plenty of rude, heartbreaking interruptions along the way, as this book will demonstrate, global living standards will continue to improve regardless of the horrors that dominate the headlines.

This is something important for us to remember as leaders. Even in the midst of setbacks and failures, we make progress—if we maintain perspective.

Certainly, we don’t want to stick our heads in the sand and act like bad things never happen. They do. But good things also happen.

As leaders, we must practice what Jim Collins in Good to Great calls “The Stockdale Paradox”: Great leaders acknowledge the current realities and don’t pull any punches. But at the same time, they have an unwavering belief that they will ultimately prevail.

When you experience a setback, perspective is often the first casualty. You can regain it by following these five steps:

  1. Acknowledge what happened. You can’t move past the setback if you don’t. This is the first step.
  2. Empathize with those who suffered. Failure hurts. No one enjoys it. It should be mourned.
  3. Put the setback in context. There is always more to the story. We can’t allow one setback—or even a series of setbacks—to define us. Failure is not the end unless you quit.
  4. Point out the positive. It sounds trite, but it’s true: every cloud has a silver lining. There is something to learn, something that even failure makes possible. Your job as a leader is to find it.
  5. Keep moving forward. The difference between winning and losing is not the number of setbacks you experience. Even winners experience failure. The difference is in whether or not you get up when you fall down and keep moving forward.

Setbacks are inevitable. They make us stronger and develop our character. But only if we maintain our perspective and use them to grow.

Question: What is a situation in which you need to help yourself or your team regain perspective? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Want to launch your own blog or upgrade to self-hosted WordPress? Watch my free, twenty-minute screencast. I show you exactly how to do it. You don’t need any technical knowledge. Click here to get started.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jaylen-Watkins/100003217686270 Jaylen Watkins

    Thanks  for this inspiring post. It is superb!

    http://www.foodprocessingjobs.org

  • http://www.facebook.com/GeorgeDGregory George Gregory

    Awesome post, Michael - 
    Instead of just wringing our hands over the mess the world is in, why not go out and make a difference? One thing sure to help your perspective is to go and find someone who could use a hand themselves – getting our eyes of ourselves is one of the best ways to get back to get out of our own emotional ruts. It’s easy to get busy in my own little corner and forget about the important people in my life. Thanks for a valuable reminder.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Oftentimes when things aren’t going my way, I say to myself, “In this life, there is no lasting peace, no hope, and no victory.” ‘ Lasting’…is the key word. We thank God for all our temporal victories. Realizing that they won’t last.

    But in our Lord, Jesus Christ, we do have authentic life which will bring us lasting and forever victory.

    Great post!  Thank you!

  • http://coffeehousepilgrim.wordpress.com/ Cody Alley

    This is a great post!  It seems to me that we are conditioned to be negative by the culture around us.  I sometimes get strange looks from my colleagues when I point out the positive side of what’s otherwise seen as a negative challenge. 

    And this is extremely applicable to my family right now, too.  Thank you!

  • http://iampart.wordpress.com/ Travis Rieth

    Last summer I set out into Denver to live with the homeless in order to “become their neighbor”. The first night, just a couple hours after walking downtown, I was sitting on a bench worrying because my plans on finding a place to sleep were falling through. My confidence was deteriorating as all the other ideas of how I could fail were going through my mind. I was questioning how I was ever going to help others.

    I knew times like this would come (I didn’t expect them to come so fast) and remembered that even though there would be discomfort and problems to overcome answers were out there. I would still be around the next day and week and by then my problems would be solved.It was about putting the setback in context, not freaking out and trusting in the ability to move on rather than quitting because it was hard. That night I found  a place to sleep, got food and met a few (of many) people that I would get to know and love on for the next couple months.

    All just because I managed not to quit in the beginning.

  • Lew Boore

    As a hi-tech executive specializing in VC-funded start-ups, a proper positive perspective is key to success as set-backs occur regularly.  I/ we also point out about the how we can learn about  the set-back/ failure, and it’s place in the  “eternal scheme of things” (i.e. God).  Leadership is also key- during a layoff we were forced to have a few years ago, I actually laid myself off, as it was only the “right thing” to do to ensure that the overall leadership of the company retained legitimacy in the eyes of the employees and investors.  And my decision resulted in being able to witness to others.

  • Paul Sidwell

    It is incredibly important to maintain perspective, and that’s really hard to do without a written plan of what you were trying to do in the first place.  Take time to create this, and refer to it often, and more often as setbacks occur.  Make sure your efforts are still guiding you toward your goals.  If needed, change your goals to something actually attainable. Maybe you set them too high? Long term, that’s good, but if you’re like me, the tendency to remain focused on the long term is practically debilitating- it causes me to lose sight of what I must do *now* to make it to the goal as planned. Reviewing my written plan helps me stay in touch with my goals and keep a proper perspective.

  • Ingrid

    In Medjugorje, Bosnia Herzegovina, Our Blessed Mother has been appearing to visionaries for nearly 31 years.  Out of an inspiration by the Holy Spirit, I travelled there, all expenses paid by others and unusual circumstances.  It took my breath away to see all the people praying, confessing their sins and the conversions.  We are being called by heaven to unity to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We really must listen to how God is speaking to us in these times.  The television, I can’t stand to watch.  I pray, pray, pray.  I have also learned that Jesus sends specific prayers for us to pray as he did in the gospel (the Our Father).  I have learned to pray the rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet.  These are powerful prayers for our time. Thank you for allowing me to share with you and God Bless your endeavors.

  • Pingback: Finding it hard to see your blessings amongst your challenges? Some suggestions to help find the joy.

  • Ken

    Mike, As usual you direct us toward the positive.  This was an extremely helpful post for me.  Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    We must never lose sight of the big picture. I was laid off from a career of 24 years, and with a family of 6 to provide for, I’m doing my best to get to normal. What helps me?
    -Take time to remember and give thanks for the good things. When you take stock you’ll realize there has been plenty of blessing as well-Read your Bible regularly and think about what you’re reading. It’s never been all peaches and cream even for some of the most devout; stuff happens. God’s promise is that He’ll use it if we give it to Him.-Conscious dependence on God.-Take time to love and serve others; get your eyes off yourself. Like physical exercise, this often takes a conscious effort, and like exercise, it energizes rather than wears you out.I’m living in the same turbulence many others are, but I’ve never been more aware of God’s hand and His faithfulness. We must turn to face our problems with that awareness.

  • Jan Macy

    Thanks for this positive post.  It’s so easy to just see the bad.  

    I started a Joy Journal a couple years ago when I was overwhelmed by the negative.  The Bible tells us to think on the good and the noble.  I found if I truly looked for the positive every day.  It was there.  We find what we are looking for.  

  • Bmwbear129

    Regaining perspective for me took some time.  I am a mother of two separated from my husband of 18 years because of his drug addictions.  I stayed in the relationship because I feared that I could not handle things on my own only to discover I already was!  Putting reality back into focus was as easy as regaining my self-confidence and I only found that in God.  I no longer struggle with the “what to dos”  I have learned to look up the “how to dos” instead!

  • Pingback: Theological Interpretation, Justification, Lent, and Death Metal | Marturo

  • Jessica Zirbes

    I am an optimist, so I am on the same page with you. Well said!
    I also believe that test and trial make us stronger. I get excited about opportunities for my character to grow. (Yikes, did God here that?)

  • abdul krishna

    Imagine
    being able to  alter your world in the areas of Love, Money, Career,
    Sexual Intimacy, Bad Karma, and Will Power! Imagine being able to bring
    back lost lovers, make someone sexually attracted to you, bring bad luck
    to others, lose weight, stop smoking, get a promotion or raise, or
    simply come into  big money.  All is possible with the astounding power
    of High prophet of goddess and his outstanding spellcasting abilities.
    You have the power to change the future,  change your destiny, and get
    the things out of life you need to bring success, luck, and happiness.
    Email me today on prophetofgoddess@yahoo.com or view
    http://www.prophetofgoddess.com

     

  • Donovankitkat

    If success was the result of every attempt there  would be no improvement, no adjusting and no leaders. Failure makes us better and allows for efficiency.

  • http://www.goalguru.com/blog goal setting

    Every challenge I have ever experienced has led me to something greater than anything I could have ever predicted or expected. Just keep looking for the lessons and you will find them. The moment you play the victim, you lose all hope of finding the lesson. The people who triumph over adversity seem to have an acceptance that there is a reason for everything.

    Live Your Dreams,

    Jill Koenig

  • Pingback: Hold Onto Those Happy Thoughts - Yuse Lajiminmuhip