Looking back from the future

Bob Sutton is a professor of management at Stanford and the author of “The A**hole Survival Guide: How to Deal with People Who Treat You Like Dirt.” And while the book is pitched toward helping you deal with difficult people, one of the techniques, shared in this 90-second video (includes colorful language –“viewer discretion advised,” as they say), can help you get through any difficult situation or period, whether or not a jerk is responsible for causing it. It’s called “Temporal Distance” and it works like this: When you’re going through a difficult or stressful time, imagine it’s one day later, then one week later, then one year later. Eventually, what you’re facing right now isn’t quite so upsetting. Looking back from the future makes today seem manageable.

I will admit that the idea struck me as hokey when presented as doing time travel in your mind. But then I realized it’s actually not at all unlike what I’ve recommended in many posts, two examples of which are here and here.

If you’re the type who likes to dig into the research (I am not), here’s a detailed study from UC Berkeley on the effects of Temporal Distance.

For students and parents navigating your way through the college admissions process, remember that the C on the exam, the test score that won’t budge, and so many other things that feel so important today just won’t matter when you’re looking back from the future.