Why Walk Backwards

(from my soon-to-be-published book, Just One Step: Walking Backwards to the Present on the Camino Trail)

Before I dive into the various practical ways that walking backwards will serve you, let’s first look at some obvious benefits of this shift. As noted above, walking backwards is one antidote for the insanity that many of us engage in every day – doing the same things over and over and hoping for different outcomes. As for me, hope isn’t a strategy, and it’s not something I want to pin my future on. While I believe in hope (the belief that things can and will change), I choose not to lean on hope as my strategy and tactics.

Another reality of change is that if you’re stuck or otherwise in a rut of any kind, you can’t get out of it with slight adjustments and small turns (like zigzagging your way down a hill). While you may be able to move out in small steps and actions (just one step at a time), you often need to make extreme shifts and adjustments to escape the rut. After all, if you’re in a rut in a car, you can’t get out of the rut with slight turns of the wheel and at low speeds. Instead, you’ve got to make hard turns and accelerate at the same time. Walking backwards is a similar example of this approach.

Whether you’re ready to embrace this truth or not, slight changes and course adjustments are often not enough to change your path and outcomes. In more and more cases I encounter, radical shifts are required, especially when the prior patterns, practices and processes have been long standing and engrained. While it may feel scary, real change often requires bold action and sometimes this means doing the opposite and walking backwards.

We all know that over time we develop certain patterns, habits and muscles (i.e. ways of doing things), and when you attempt to change them it can be uncomfortable and perhaps even painful. I’ve learned this over the years with my daily routine of push-ups. In the beginning, I did traditional push-ups every day, and my muscles adjusted to that form. However, when I started doing push-ups using the “perfect push-up” rotating tool, the push-ups were harder because I was using different muscles. Then, a couple of years ago, I decided to start doing diamond push-ups, where you put your hands together in a diamond shape in the center of your body and press up and down from that position. These push-ups are generally regarded as more difficult, and I felt they were for some time. However, when I now do traditional push-ups, they’re more difficult than the diamonds because my muscles have adapted to the diamond push-ups.

The same is true with the ways that you live, relate and lead. Over time, you quickly develop comfort zones and muscle memory that make what you’ve always done (and the ways you’ve always done it) easier and more comfortable. However, we also know that over time what you’ve always done will inevitably either cease to work or become less effective than you need it to be. That’s why change is always necessary at some point and why it’s critical for you to be willing to stretch yourself and your muscles in different directions, and sometimes that means doing the opposite. It may feel odd and uncomfortable, but that just means that you’re exercising a new muscle and trying something new. Allow yourself to feel odd and uncomfortable and take the risk of walking backwards – it may be just what you need to change everything in your experiences and outcomes.

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