People often ask me how to respond to setbacks when they are in the midst of an emotional or creative challenge. The answer is simple:

There are no setbacks.

Emotional and creative development do not follow a straight line.  What feels like a setback is only a variation.

Our schools train us to think in a straight line: 1 comes before 2, which comes before 3, and A + B = C. The more schooling we have, the more we absorb the message of linear thinking.  This type of thinking affects not just what we learn but how we think of our lives and ourselves.  We are taught to believe that if you study, or put in enough effort, you will pass the test and have success. This formula works quite well for many problems, especially those where there is an actual test or presentation.

Thinking in a non-linear way may not come naturally if you are classically educated. In fact, people who do not have a conventional education tend to have an easier time grasping the nature of emotional and creative progress, because unlike book-learning, life-learning involves, and indeed often requires, entering apparently 'blind alleys,' experiencing the sting of rejection, weathering feelings of failure, or enduring periods of time when it seems like all is lost.

Not all processes follow a straight line. In fact, we can become so concentrated on this idea that we are convinced of its universal power, and become confined by it. Linear thinking does not apply to creativity or emotional growth.  Lessons of the heart must be learned over again in many different ways for them to be etched into our beings. These, arguably more important emotional lessons are learned and forgotten, re-learned, forgotten, learned more, understood, forgotten, and integrated into our consciousness slowly only over time and through painful experience. In the process of emotional and creative growth, we do not declare victory and move on.  Not only do we all have our own life lessons to learn, we each learn them in our own ways and time and on our own time schedules. 

So, if you think you had a setback stop thinking and move on.

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