TAKING THE SHORTCUT WITHOUT DOING THE HOMEWORK
How many times as a leader have you tried to take a shortcut only to discover it was the long road? Maybe you thought you’d take the shorter route determined by MapQuest only to discover fewer miles didn’t equal less time. Or maybe you thought you would forego learning about your past, so you could jump right into the future only to discover your future seems to be a repeat of your past.
I’m not advocating that you forget about taking shortcuts. Some shortcuts work. What I am saying that those shortcuts work, because you gained information that allowed you to use the shorter route.
What happens to most leaders is they want to take the short cut without doing the homework.
THE JANUS EFFECT
There is a phenomenon called the “Janus Effect,” which is named after the Roman god who had two faces. Janus had one face which looked forward while the other one looked backward. This allowed him to see the past while facing the future.
Wouldn’t this be the ideal situation for you as a leader—to see how you failed or succeeded in the past while making strides toward your goals?
The key is not to make the past your future, but to SEE THE PAST AS A STEPPING STONE TOWARD your future. When you make the error of believing what happened in your past is going to occur in your future, you are perpetuating what is going to take place. Perhaps you’ve heard somebody say, “This always happens to me.” If they are referring to something good, that is awesome, but if they are saying that bad things keep happening to them, they are creating more of the same by believing it is going to happen.
However the past can serve as a preface for opportunity. When you take the time to examine the past, to become aware of the whys behind the events, to study why you connected with your dreams, or why things didn’t come to fruition, you are altering your possibilities.
INTEROGATE YOUR PAST
When I was younger, I was known as an antagonist, because I always asked the question, “Why?” What I learned was the majority of the people I “interviewed” (okay interrogated), didn’t have insightful answers to my question. In fact what I learned was that most people did something a certain way, because they had learned it from their parents. Their beliefs mirrored their families. They didn’t take the time to examine their beliefs; they simply accepted them.
It is okay to mirror your family’s beliefs if those beliefs are benefitting you. It is when your past beliefs are limiting you that you might decide upon a different course of action. This action does not have to mean that you are right and somebody else is wrong. It simply means that you need to take a different course of action to find your success.
Your past can lead you a different direction or it can keep you cemented where you are. When you can examine your highs and lows without judgment, but with an eye for growth, you can understand the central recurring themes of your life. Those themes didn’t just materialize for the first time today.
The idea is to spend more time doing your homework, learning from the past, so your future won’t feel like the long road. It will feel like the shortcut.