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Two Techniques to Help You Instantly Bounce Back From Life’s Setbacks

Learning to accelerate your hindsight helps you overcome day-to-day failures.


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Nabil Alouani

3 years ago | 4 min read

When something terrible happens, we all have that one friend who says, “you’re not seeing it right now, but one day, you’ll be grateful for this.” Despite being that friend, I’ve always been frustrated by the slowness of the process. It’s only after a while that we realize that what we once considered a stumbling block often led to a positive outcome.

You get fired only to find a better job eventually, or you get dumped and end up taking a serious shot at a personal project or exploring your well-being.

Even if we all know too well that our current setback may trigger a beautiful twist of events, we often get stuck in frustration and endless cycles of negative emotions.

Fortunately, neuroscience and psychology have studied the subject, and scientists believe they’ve found ways to accelerate our hindsight. The trick is to combine a simple breathing technique with a touch of imagination.

In 2016, my favorite public speaker Eric Edmeades shared his bounce-back-technique in a talk he called The Hindsight Window.

The Hindsight Window is the window of time between the moment an event that you perceived as terrible occurs, and the time you start picturing that same event as a gift. Eric’s idea is to shorten this time-lapse.

  • First, you pause for a moment and take deep breaths.
  • Then, you picture future blessings originating from the incident that just happened.

Breathing and why it works

Technically speaking, slow breathing affects the neurochemicals released in your brain. It deactivates your “fear response center” — the amygdala and reactivates your “thinking center” — the prefrontal cortex, instead.

In essence, you trade arousal, anxiety, anger, and confusion, with comfort, relaxation, vigor, and alertness. These feel-good effects spread across your body through your nervous system, slowing your heart rate, and limiting other stress-driven responses such as ticks.

When it comes to breathing techniques, the choices are almost endless. For instance, John Assaraf, the author of Innercise, suggests the following mantra while breathing.

“I breathe in calm and serenity.I breathe out stress and anxiety.”

According to Assaraf, it enhances the sync between mind and body. Another widely-spread approach is Wim Hof’s. He earned the title of “The Iceman” for his amazing ability to withstand freezing temperatures. Hof suggests relaxing methods based on breath-holding and explains that it’s useful in getting him out of fight-or-flight, and into the rest-and-relaxation mode.

There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, and you don’t have to stick to a specific guide. The idea is to relax your body and move to a calmer state of mind. The latter sets you up for the second part.

Visualization and why it works

In general, visualizing positive outcomes stimulates the release of dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin — all things that you want to be promoting within yourself. These are the neurochemicals responsible for motivation, awareness, and engagement.

This part of The Hindsight Window is like playing a mental movie. In it, you make your present setback trigger beneficial and even rewarding outcomes. By doing so, you stop dwelling on the downside, which gets you stuck. Instead, you push your neurons to focus on problem-solving. Incidentally, you take yourself from whining about the luck of the draw to thinking about your next move. You accept the lousy card that life just dealt you and keep playing the game.

Doctor Jordan Peterson, who’s a clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, wrote in his book “12 Rules For Life” that facing challenges voluntarily stimulates the brain circuits related to positive emotions. He added that we, humans, are “aiming creatures.” We draw our motivation and happiness from moving forward while undertaking challenges and responsibilities.

Put differently; the visualization part allows you to identify a new objective out of your current situation. Thus, you turn your setback into a source of motivation.

The Hindsight Window isn’t a magic trick that’ll make all your problems disappear. It’s a tool that can help you handle them better.

In September 2019, my application to speak at a TEDx event was denied during the very last stage. I’d worked like crazy to get there and had even stopped writing to focus entirely on the speech. Naturally, I was very frustrated and extremely sad when I received the “sorry you have been rejected” phone call.

Then, The Hindsight Window kicked in. I took six deep breaths and thought to myself:

“Hold on. Wouldn’t it be nice if I used the time initially intended for my speech preparation to write more articles? That way, I’d have more content for the next time I attempt public speaking.”

I visualized myself working on inspiring articles and giving speeches on fancy wooden stages. Three days later, I got back into writing after a five-month break. I’ve been writing every week ever since.

There’ll still be hardships that will be close to impossible to reframe like losing a loved one.

Nevertheless, most of your daily struggles aren’t worth risking your mental health and future opportunities over.

In any case, you can’t change what happens around you. However, you can choose how to react. So instead of bowing to setbacks why not use them to your advantage and bet on the future. Steve Jobs might have said it best:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.”
This article was originally published by Nabil ALOUANI on medium.

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Nabil Alouani

Business | Psychology | Marketing — What's your favorite quote? Mine is "True masters are eternal students."


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