Taking a step back is as necessary as moving forward

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Everything about stepping forward offers positive implications. Everything worth pursuing is ahead of us.

Regardless of the destination, most people (who feel they are on the right track) are fairly certain that they are moving up, over, ahead or onward, and that they on the right track.

I am an advocate for action and getting things done. But the importance of stepping back, and measuring your progress is as crucial as the action you take to advance your long-term goals. Sometimes you have to take a step back, a time out from your life.

Never go so fast that you forget to review your progress. It pays to take a break in order to move forward, especially when life is not linear. A successful career doesn’t always move in a consistently upward trajectory. Most careers don’t follow a classic vertical progression.

Guy Gavriel Kay once said, “There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.”

Everyone prefers progress to be smooth, constant and straightforward, it rarely is. In all pursuits, it’s prudent to stop and take a step back in order to go forward.

Taking a step back from an immediate problem can make it clear that your current approach isn’t working. If you feel stuck, it’s even more important to take a break and access where you are headed.

If you feel as though you are taking far more steps back than forward. And your steps require a great amount of effort – so much trying, so little happening. But you have nothing to show for it, invest time in your reflection.

Take the time and introspection required to figure out what exactly it is that you are trying to achieve to determine the right path to get there.

When you take a break and review your actions, you will clearly see where you are on your journey in life and career, where you need to go next and how they compare to your progress in the past. This will give you more confidence in planning what you need to do to move positively through change and transformation.

Time invested in reflection is not time wasted. Sometimes you have to take one step back in order to achieve two ahead. Greatness is like a spring, you take a step back in order to spring ahead.

Instead of burdening yourself with speed, start asking yourself — “What do I need to stop?” How did I perform? How do I compare to my own standards? What’s a new experience you can add to your life or career? Lucy Hawkins, a career adviser at the University of Oxford argues:

“Take a step back and ask yourself: if you could click your fingers and instantly change things to make them better, what would the result be? What would be the things you’d notice that were better? It might be a little different from your current situation, or it might be something more major. There might be steps you can make towards it right now, or it might be the change you have to research and plan for. But getting a clear picture of what ‘better’ looks like, is the key.”

Every action you take does not necessarily help you move forward. Review your processes, systems, values, and steps and do more of what works. More of what brings results. More of what delivers.

When you audit your life, performance improves

Maturity is knowing what works and what doesn’t.

Some good steps outlive their usefulness. We are creatures of habit. And our brains like routines. And until you make time to review what’s actually contributing to your progress, you could spend a lot of time doing everything you don’t need on your journey to a better life. Until you change what you do daily you may never change your trajectory. If you have to get feedback from others get it.

Seriously think about what you have to stop doing. Not all change is necessary, but without change, there cannot be any progress. If you don’t see the point in taking a step back every now and then, you can no longer change, grow and improve.

If you’re not changing forwards, you’re changing backwards because we are always changing, says Richie Norton

The good news is, after a successful reflection, you don’t have to stop doing everything you have built or improved over the years. Sustaining and sticking to what’s working is as equally important as stopping what’s not producing results. Celebrate the things that are working and sustain them.

There is no easy route to anywhere worth going.

Taking a step back allows you to get clarity and perspective. Clarity comes through reflection and strategic thought.

Take some time every quarter or six months to evaluate where you are right now. Sometimes, the best long-term life strategy may require what seems, at first glance, to be a backward move.

Taking a step back enables you to think about your life and career in the broader context of your life — it allows you to see the forest instead of getting lost in the trees.

The most successful people maintain a focus on the present, review their short-term goals whilst they keep their eye on the future. People who have planned their lives prudently — perhaps by taking a calculated step back will be able to step happily forward. Make sure the actions you take today are helping you move in the direction you eventually want to go.

This article first appeared on Medium.