Sometimes the Best Way Forward is to Take a Step Back

When we experience challenges or feel at some kind of crossroads or just feel unfulfilled and unhappy with the status quo in our life and work we often pressure ourselves to just keep going. We convince ourselves that we will resolve the situation or find the clarity we seek by pushing on and keeping busy.  

But that approach is often counterproductive. Here’s why:

When we are in the middle of a challenging situation, at a crossroads, feel we don’t have clarity or feel we don’t know what the next steps are it is difficult to find the answers in the busyness of the challenge whilst also juggling the ongoing demands of day to day life and work.

We need time and space to think, reflect, ponder, and figure things out. That is how we find answers. That is where change starts. Change, clarity, and solutions don’t flourish in an environment of relentless busyness and feeling overwhelmed.  

When we are immersed in a challenging situation you often can’t see all the options and possibilities. You don’t have time and space to think things through to come to an optimal conclusion that will drive a well-informed way forward and action plan.

Just powering on regardless results in wandering without direction but thinking you are moving forward when you aren’t. You won’t get to where you want to be with this approach. At best it reduces progress to a snail’s pace. At worst, it can keep you stuck indefinitely. You can end up feeling like you are on a hamster wheel. Peddling hard in your life and work but never really truly moving forward or creating meaningful change.  

A simple but powerful way to deal with this is to take a step back. Create time and space to allow creative thinking and to come up with strategic solutions and changes based on clarity around the outcome you want to create and the first steps to get on that path.

But that can be harder said than done. It can feel counter-intuitive. We live in a world that glorifies busyness and pushing on no matter what. So it can feel uncomfortable to fly in the face of that. But keep this in mind:

Sometimes the best way forward is to take a step back.

The key is to know in what situations you need to push on. And in what situations it would be more effective and beneficial to take a step back.

I can tell you from decades of personal experience and almost 20 years of working with people who want to change something in their life or work, feel at a crossroads or are navigating a transition, having the courage to take a step back can lead to the clarity and solutions you seek. It can lead to transformations and breakthroughs. It can break the cycle of feeling stuck so you can emerge on the right path.

Taking a step back doesn’t mean retreating totally and it doesn’t have to be time consuming. It can be as simple as taking a weekend for yourself. If that is challenging even just a couple of hours a week or a small amount of time each day can be transformative too.

When people tell me “oh yes, stepping back would be a nice thing to do but I don’t have time to do that,” my answer is always the same, “you don’t have time NOT to do that. The results that matter most to you won’t come in the busyness and status quo. They will come when you create a space for them to happen, to think something different, and to do something different.”

With that in mind, here are three questions to ask yourself:

  • What would you benefit from taking a step back from right now?
  • If you don’t, what are you risking?
  • What is stopping you from giving yourself permission to take a step back?

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