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To Go Forward, Take Two Steps Back

But I missed my exit...

But I missed my exit… (Image by Huangjiahui)

 

When I was twenty-seven years old, I moved back in with my parents. I’d been out of the house for nine years. In that time I’d lived in a lot of places and held a slew of jobs. Most of them odd, all of them low-paying. I decided it was time to hit the “reset” button on my life. I wanted to start my own business. I wanted to give it everything I had, working full time at it.

I’m very fortunate to have parents who supported me in this. It helped a lot that my dad was a pretty successful entrepreneur. I think he was excited to see whether I had his go-get-‘em drive.

My little sister had already moved back home, and with my return we’d have a full house again. Everyone was very excited. Everyone except me. I felt ridiculous. I had no idea what I was doing. I was sacrificing my independence, which meant a lot to me, and for what? Who was I to think I could work for myself?

My dad said, “Take all the time you need. Maybe you’ll be home two or three years. In the grand scheme of your life, these two or three years will seem so short. They’ll seem like nothing. But it’ll be worth it to put the time in now.”

I was horrified at the prospect of being home for three years. But guess what? My dad was right. Not only did I learn a lot about running a business and get to work for myself, I got to reconnect with my family.

Sometimes to go forward, you have to go backward.

There are lots of different reasons for this. Sometimes we make a big decision before we’ve really thought things through, or before we have all the information. Sometimes we make decisions when we’re young, and the people we grow into have different values and need different things.

Sometimes we’re just in a hurry to accomplish something. This is America and we like to get things done. Fast. We focus on getting ahead, blazing trails and achieving our goals. Great! But to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, sometimes we’re so concerned with whether or not we can do something, that we don’t stop to think about whether we should.

Stepping back means taking stock, reassessing our situation, and maybe making a new decision. Like…

  • Going back to school.
  • Moving back in with your parents to figure things out/pay off your debt/start a new career.
  • Breaking up with your current partner or spouse to find someone who complements who you are now, as opposed to who you used to be.
  • Revising the terms of a contract when a client exploits your services.
  • Retracing your steps so you can find your car keys.

There’s a great piece of advice in T. Harv Eker’s book, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. He says when making decisions or starting new ventures, we shouldn’t over-prepare. Instead, we should “ready, fire, aim.”

It’s great advice. But even though it sounds all about forging ahead in blithe ignorance, he’s also telling us to take a step back. That’s the “aim” part. What Eker’s saying is just do your best and forge ahead. You’ll learn as you go along, and can adjust your sails accordingly.

This sounds easy and logical enough, but stepping back to adjust our sails isn’t always easy. It can be downright scary. It can mean sacrificing our independence, our job or our relationship. It can mean slowing down, and going slower means falling behind, and falling behind means failing (right?). After all…

  • What if you’re still living in your parents’ basement when you’re 35?
  • What if you never meet anyone else after ending your current relationship?
  • You’re too old to go back to school. You’ll probably be the oldest one there; it’ll be weird.
  • You wrote the contract the way it is. It’s your own fault if you’re getting screwed now.
  • You don’t have time to look for your car keys—you have to get on the road!

Taking steps backward can be threatening, but it can also be exciting. It’s a time to plant new seeds. To toss out what isn’t working and replace it with something that might change everything. This is when we sharpen our skills—and ourselves—to achieve our goals.

Taking steps backward is also essential. Who wants to come to the end of their life and say to themselves, “Well, that was kind of half-assed, wasn’t it? I coulda done better.”

After we’ve taken a step back, we’ll probably be a little tentative when it comes to moving forward again. We’ll be nervous to move out of our parents’ home, or go on a first date after a divorce. After all, we just spent some time building ourselves a new set of wings. Now it’s time to see if they work.

If they don’t, just take a few steps back.

But if they do…

***

L. Marrick is a historical fantasy writer and freelance copywriter. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. She eats too much chocolate and still doesn’t believe downward dog is supposed to be a restful yoga pose. You can connect with her at either of her websites.


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