To see the bigger picture in life, use your intuition and be clear on your values and priorities in life.

To see the bigger picture, don’t be afraid to think long term, and do what will make your future self happy.

The leader must aim high, see big, judge wisely, thus setting himself apart from the ordinary people who debate in narrow confines.

Charles de Gaulle

What does it mean to see the bigger picture?

Ever got caught up in the details and ultimately lost sight of what was really important?

Ever failed to achieve something because you spent hours agonizing over the trivial stuff, and only two seconds on what would really matter?

Ever made a really bad decision because your vision was so narrow you missed all the key factors?

If you develop the habit of seeing the bigger picture — the thing as a whole, and the stuff that matters to you — that’s unlikely to happen again.

To see the bigger picture means to be aware of the bigger picture (rather than just the insignificant details).

That’s hard. It’s a lot easier to be aware of the tiny little details, and pretend that’s enough, pretend that’s all there is.

However, those who are able to see beyond that will be rewarded. In everything they do.

Benefits of big picture thinking

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs out there are individuals who saw the bigger picture.

They are people who were able to create something that was truly innovative; they saw what others didn’t see.

If you apply the same concept to your own life — if you are able to see and build your existence differently and according to your most important values — chances are you’ll have a meaningful life.

Being able to see the bigger picture in life is an invaluable skill. Some of the advantages:

  • Better decisions, especially long-term decisions
  • Ability to create, innovate, discover, explore
  • Better time management; more time and energy
  • Sense of fulfillment and self-realization
  • Ability to recognize patterns and connect the dots
  • Ability to associate seemingly unrelated ideas
  • Better, more genuine relationships

Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.

Michael Burke

How to see the bigger picture in life

1. Tap into your intuition

Some of us are predominantly intuitive (seeing possibilities, seeing what’s beyond what’s tangible); some of us prefer to make decisions using numbers and data.

That being said, we all have access to the superpower of intuition. We all have gut feelings. It’s usually simply a matter of paying attention to those. We all experience them.

Rule number one to see the bigger picture in your life: trust your god-given intuition! And practice seeing things using your intuition only, as an exercise. You’ll find that most of the time you’ll be exactly right.

2. Learn from past experiences

Think of a time in which you didn’t see the bigger picture, and see if you can learn a lesson from that. For example, think of all your major life decisions.

When your decisions turned out to be wrong (or much worse compared to all other available options), what is it that you didn’t consider? What did you fail to see, to predict?

Was it your own happiness? Time? Were you blinded by instant gratification? Chances are you underestimated or overestimated the importance of a factor; chances are you still do today. Reflect on that so you can see the bigger picture in future.

3. Have clear values and priorities

A person who has zero time management skills is a person who has no priorities in life. A “wasted life” is a life without purpose, without a clear direction. It’s not just laziness. Laziness is the result, rather than the cause.

If you struggle to see the bigger picture in life, it’s probably because you are not yet aware of your values and priorities — in simple terms, you don’t really know what matters to you.

If my priority in life is peace of mind and a sense of balance, I’m never going to pick a stressful, soul-sucking, anxiety-inducing job no matter how well it pays.

If I value genuine relationships, honesty, and being myself, I’m never going to regret saying no to toxic people no matter how lonely I may have been at the time. It really is that simple.

4. Reflect on your future self

What would make your future self proud? Happy? Fulfilled? Just pause for a minute and think of your future self, rather than who you are right now.

What makes you happy right now (instant gratification) is usually a bad indicator of what will be right in the long term; it usually prevents you from seeing the bigger picture. 

If your brain had to choose between being happy today or being happy your whole life by sacrificing today, it would choose being happy today every single time! Scary, right?

That’s because our subconscious mind doesn’t really distinguish between present and future. But if you really focus on the future version of your life, you’ll see the bigger picture, and you’ll make much better decisions.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Seriously, don’t. Stop overthinking when it doesn’t really matter which option you pick. Stop investing so much of your energy on things that don’t contribute to your happiness.

The fifth tip to see the bigger picture in life is to forget about the details, to stop being a control freak with things that just don’t matter.

Because only then are you able to focus on what does matter. Whether we like it or not, we have a limited amount of willpower, energy, and discipline — all of us. Don’t waste them on the small stuff.

6. Allow yourself to experiment

Take a week off and travel somewhere you’ve never been before. Learn more about a topic or skill you never even thought about. Meet people who have a totally different lifestyle than yours.

Give yourself permission to make stupid mistakes. Experiment, and see life as a journey, as a fun experience. That’s the only way to discover what’s beyond your comfort zone.

In life, there is always a bigger picture. But you don’t know… that you don’t know. And the only way to know is to experiment and to try new things, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable at first.

Final thoughts

You cannot have access to an infinite amount of information. There will always be things you don’t know, things you can’t predict or expect.

And seeing the bigger picture in life doesn’t mean seeing everything.

But as you become more of a “big picture thinker”, you’ll learn to pay attention to the things that are aligned to your goals and priorities. And you’ll make much better decisions.

And people around you may wonder why you didn’t do this or that instead, why you didn’t pick the obvious choice.

And that’s okay. They’ll be too busy looking at the details. You’ll see the bigger picture. It’s your life — trust yourself, and follow yourself.