Sometimes You Have to Really Change Things Up

If you’re like me, you sometimes get (or feel) stuck. Or perhaps you’re facing a particularly difficult personal, business or leadership challenge, and the traditional solutions don’t seem to be adequate for what you’re facing. Sometimes your problems or challenges require something more or different, perhaps significantly different. And sometimes you have to really change things up, even if it feels crazy (or other people think it’s crazy).

During my recent Camino de Santiago trek I faced some significant physical challenges (which also became mental challenges): a shin splint on my left leg, a strained right ankle, several painful blisters, and a painful issue on the balls of both of my feet. While these challenges were present with every step on my journey, they were particularly challenging on the hills. If you’ve hiked or trekked before, you know well that the thought of going up a big hill is intimidating, but you also know that the bigger challenge is often going down the other side. Going up a hill requires physical stamina and exercises your heart, but going down a hill requires you to endure the stress and pain on your feet, knees, ankles and calves.

There are some obvious or standard solutions for this challenge – walking more slowly or zig-zagging down the hill – but these were often not helpful for me and my painful feet and legs. One option was to just gut it out, which I often did, but the seriousness of my physical pain and challenges inspired me to explore something different – to really change things up.

Partially out of desperation to minimize the pain, I started walking down the hills backwards. Yes, you heard me right – I was walking backwards down hills (at least any hill that was relatively smooth in surface). Walking backwards took a tremendous amount of stress off my feet, ankles and legs, and I got pretty good at it. I was able to maintain my balance and walk backwards pretty quickly, and so I walked … backwards.

I saw other people looking at me like I was crazy, but I also saw people copying me and continuing to walk backwards (I’m guessing because they discovered that it felt much better going down the hills!). Funny how that works – you try or do something that seems crazy, and someone copies it, and then another, and soon you have a new way of doing things. And it’s no longer crazy!

The other thing I learned from walking backwards is that it afforded me a whole new view of what was all around me. Yes, I was looking back in the directions from which I’d come, but there were unique perspectives and views. I know that I saw views that no one else on the Camino saw because they were always walking and looking one direction.

While walking backwards may seem radical (I know several people who saw me and whom I talked to about it thought so), sometimes radical is what is required in order to change things in our lives and leadership. The question is not whether you should be radical, but whether you’re willing to risk being radical – to really change things up – in order to find your way through a difficult problem, challenge or obstacle.

Where in your life or leadership could you be radical – to perhaps try walking backwards in order to change things up and get a different perspective? You may not always walk backwards (it might just be something to do from time to time), but you might find that walking backwards (really changing things up) is something that becomes your permanent way of doing things or leading.

And you guessed it – over time even walking backwards can become the normal way and you might again have to really change things up and turn around again. The point is to always be open to the possibility of really changing things up, to being radical, to walking backwards – even if everyone points and stares, because when it’s all said and done it’s your life, your leadership, your journey, your walk.

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