Ok, time for honesty from everyone. Who here hasn’t, at some time in their travelling experience, reluctantly asked for directions, only to find out that you needed to turn around and go back from where you came to get to your final destination? If we are honest we know this has happened. We either missed a turn or simply ended up in the wrong direction. Turning around, or going backwards, was not a negative in this scenario. Although, most people don’t want to go backwards, sometimes, going backwards is what gets us to where we need to be.
In life, and in my clinical career, I have come to learn that words mean things. Words are powerful. Words can be healing hands of comfort, or a weapon; you chose how to use them. But not only do words mean things, most of us tend to place judgements on particular words. When you hear a certain word it evokes in you a positive or negative thought/emotion. But what if we changed our perspective on the words we hear? For example, the word “retreat”. Most of us view this word as negative. A giving up, a loss, moving backward. But, taking the negative meaning, how can we change the perspective? If a military needs to retreat, yes, we could say its negative, but we could also say its positive. How? Where does one retreat and why? The military retreats to safety (a positive) to regroup, to learn what went wrong, and to strengthen themselves (a positive). So, although the notion of a retreat, and possibly the reason for it, are negative, the result of the retreat is positive.
I am not a huge sports fan, but I love the game of soccer. I’ve both played and coached the sport. But, a concept which was very difficult for most soccer players to comprehend was the idea of passing the ball backwards. If a player was rushing the goalie trying to score, but had opposition ahead of them, while a player just behind them had an open shot, passing the ball back was actually opening up a greater possibility for a goal. Going backwards, in this scenario, was not a negative at all. But the first player had to change their perspective.
A few years ago, while travelling in South Carolina, I took this picture of a bird frantically trying to escape the barn. The bird kept hitting the window trying to escape. But, the barn door was wide open, on both ends of the barn! All the bird had to do was to look around and fly out one of the two open doors. But, the bird was so focused on the task in front of it that it failed to see the options available.
I took this picture just the other day of a butterfly banging against the screen trying to escape. But, just behind it was the open door. As a side note, I did help the butterfly to escape after I took the picture. I guess, continuing with what is obviously my analogy, we all need help from time to time to find our way out.
For many of us, we feel trapped in life and bang ourselves against windows and screens because we fail to change our outlook, or our perspective. We seem to focus so much on what is in front of us that we tend to forget what is around us. And we forget to look behind us. In other words, we tend to forget that we have a past, a history. Our history not only helps to form who we are today, our history provides us with lessons. And the more we can turn to our history, not to relive it, but to learn from it, we will gain the wisdom of the ages.
For most of us, myself included, how can I today look around me, see options, learn from the past to possibly find a new way toward the future. If I feel like I keep knocking myself into a window, simply remember this important phrase: “stop it.” Do something different.
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