Why '1 Step Back, 2 Steps Forward' Is How Improvement Actually Works

by Susy Alexandre

The secret ingredient in the sauce of life is forward motion, right? Propelling our bodies and minds in an advancing direction and moving steadily toward the future.

Everything about stepping forward, in both the figurative and literal sense, offers positive implications.

Regardless of your destination, you can be fairly certain that if you are moving up, over, ahead or onward, you’re on the right track. It’s hard not to agree with this theory.

Making a case for standing still, or worse, going backward, is nearly impossible. And yet, here I am, about to attempt to do just that.

On the one hand, I have to say that little good comes from dwelling on the past. If you spend your life looking back, you’re bound to trip. But, nothing in the world can make time stop still; it ticks on and away and we do our best to keep up.

Sometimes it happens in steady strides and other times, in careless skips and sprints. We look ahead with hope and determination, one eye tracking the journey and the other fixed on the destination.

There is nothing wrong with this focus and passion to be the leader in your own life to push onward and upward. Life is short and with so much to see, who can blame you for wanting to experience it all?

Now, take everything I just said and momentarily pretend I said nothing. In order to see the other side of an argument, it’s best to operate on a clean slate (despite the fact that I may have just handicapped you with some irrefutable logic).

The former aside, I have learned in varying doses (sometimes in whispers and other times like bricks to the face) that there can be life-altering value in moving backward.

At any given moment at this point in our lives, so much pressure hits us from every angle, pulsating with the same core questions: “Who will you become?” “What will you do with your life?” “Where will this take you?” It can be easy to lose ourselves while doling out answers and going through the motions expected of us.

This is a usually coping mechanism that accounts for the time we didn’t take to find out how we really feel about the questions we are asked.

But, it’s not always enough to push past our wrongs and steamroll ahead. There’s no lesson there. However, while taking the time to consciously retrace our steps and pinpoint where we lost our way can be more painful than simply acknowledging fault and marching on, it is also necessary.

In work, we often sign up for more than we can handle, skipping valuable steps and lessons that would have otherwise made us more effective at completing certain tasks at hand. And in turn, we become happier to do them.

There should be no shame in recognizing this level of aptitude and looking back for guidance… and perhaps a slower transition into that next step.

In love, most of us seem to move within the realm of the standard relationship blueprint that life forcefeeds to us. This is ridiculous. At some point on your fast track to the altar, you may realize that you don’t, in fact, want to live with this person.

You may, upon reflection, discover that your fiancé’s “adorable quirks” are now more irritating-beyond-belief than they are cute. You may want to spend a little more time getting to know one another before contractually committing to “forever.”

Whether for both of your benefits or just your own, never feel badly about revisiting the past and re-working through what you need to do in order to create the best possible future for yourself.

Despite the bad rap “the past” gets, it will always be an integral part of who you are. While our own history doesn’t need to define us, it has certainly helped to shape us.

The courage to look back and take control of the molding clay can be one of the most liberating things you do.

Lessons will always be learned as you plow on through this thing called life, wherever your compass may point.

Calling on the ghosts of decisions past before they call on you might give you an edge on the future, but whatever direction in which you move, know that as long as you’re learning, you’re doing it right.

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