Have you heard the saying, “One step forward, two steps back.” It denotes those times when, despite our best efforts, it feels like we are losing ground. I’d like to offer a new saying. “One step back enables two steps forward.”
Stepping back is too often viewed as a defeat. We believe that we should always be making progress, advancing. Yet, stepping back is a great way to gain perspective. Many times, we need to step back from the trees to see the forest. Too often, we try to inch our way through dense brush, creating a path through to the other side, when it would be so much easier to step back and see where the path already exists.
Intuitively, we know the power of having the right perspective. How many of us, though, intentionally create regular times when we step back and regather ourselves? Ironically, the most productive people understand the impact of choosing to forego immediate incremental progress in the name of investing in the possibility of the slower path that creates exponential advancement. What would happen if we decided to get ahead of the curve by taking a step back?
Here are three Step Back practices you can try:
• Step Back and Look Back – Only when we look back do we give ourselves the chance to reflect and potentially avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. How many businesses repeat the same worthless meetings or continue the same ineffective processes because they never take the time to look back and assess what is working and what is not? How many of us fit the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over expecting different results) instead of stepping back and thinking through what will work better? Our relationships suffer from repeated toxic patterns that continue because we rarely pause and reflect on what needs to change.
• Step Back and Do a Check-Up – When we take our cars in for repair or go to the doctor when we are sick, they first do a diagnostic check-up. They begin by determining where things stand right now. When was the last time you did a personal diagnostic check-up? When was the last time you assessed the health of your marriage or your family or your health or your career? When was the last time you took a step back and asked yourself if you are happy with the trajectory your life is headed? Regular check-ups correct slight misdirections and help us avoid most drastic fatal mistakes.
• Step Back and Vision Forward – Once we have looked back and given ourselves the chance to learn from the past, and once we have taken a hard, honest look at where we stand right now, we can look forward to who we want to become. This takes the form of both dreaming and planning. We dream the vision and plan the details. The vision without the details is wishful thinking and the planning without the vision is short-sighted.
Here’s the bottom line. Stepping back will feel like going backward at first. It will feel like a waste of time. Don’t fall victim to this deception. Stepping back is the best way forward. Whether in your personal life, in your role as a leader, or your path in your career, it will take courage to take the counter-intuitive road less traveled and choose to step back. Choose this better way!
In what one area would you gain perspective by choosing to step back?