When Marla decided she wanted to leave her high-paying corporate job and start a small business, she feared it would be difficult to convince her musician husband of the wisdom of her plan. She carefully outlined her vision to him and waited for his response.

He considered what she said about living on a tighter budget and rearranging responsibilities and then replied, “Oh, so you’re saying we’ll move ahead by going backwards first.”

His insight is one that many people, unfortunately, lack.

But almost every dream worth going after demands a willingness to step back. That step can take many forms.

It might mean living with less money for a while or taking time to acquire skills and experience. It may demand a less cluttered life. The step back might look like mini-failures on the way to greater success.

Psychologist Irene Kassorla learned this lesson during her days in graduate school. “When I was doing the research for my doctoral thesis,” she writes, “the walls of my office were covered with charts depicting the results of my experiments.

“The learning curve never climbed straight up from zero at the bottom to 100 percent learning at the top, as a steep incline might climb toward the sky. Rather, each graph looked like a series of mountains and valleys reflecting how irregular learning patterns really are.

“Learning is a slow process. People who become winners work at it over long periods of time, failing and trying again before mastery is attained.”

It’s also important to remember that stepping back is not the same thing as quitting. Neither is it failing. It’s more like shifting gears.

It could mean moving to a better position, a position that gives you a running start in building momentum as you move forward again.

So give up all thoughts of staying in a worn-out situation simply because you’ve spent years in that place. As Barbara Sher reminds us, “It’s only too late if you don’t start now.”

Even if it looks like a step backwards it may be the necessary first step to move ahead.



2 Responses to “A Step Back”

  1. Margaret

    Wise words, Barbara. I see it in my art making and accept it without judgement but when it comes to life somehow the same process is discouraging. I am glad to be reminded of it. Thanks.

  2. Bea

    Let’s try again. I am currently taking a large “step back” for me in selling my house of 12 years (after raising three kids in an apartment of 16 years), getting laid off from a job of 14 years (the last seven of those as an executive director of a small non profit) after suffering a stroke in April 2014 and in the hospital three weeks. Thankfully for me, I did not lose any memory loss, have weaken right side (walk as slow as a turtle my two and five year old tell me) and I am starting over.

    My step back is letting go, and learning to embrace the new. I truly appreciate what I have read and am reminded of. Thanks.

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