There’s usually something that has the tendency to lead us astray over and over again. Often referred to as an Achilles heel, it’s a characteristic or preference that plays out in a similar way time and time again—resulting in us taking two steps back.
The pattern differs for each person and recurs under many circumstances, fooling us into thinking that this time was a unique event rather than part of a recurring theme.
My vulnerability is the fear of the unknown that I often try to control, despite knowing better.
It’s what made the time leading up to my decision to leap in 2014 so difficult, and why I continue to relearn lessons related to my Achilles heel. These past couple months have been little different, as I approached another upcoming change.
It’s been a trying time.
More tasks, emails, and developments rolled in than I could sanely keep track of and complete along with recurring responsibilities. There were moments when I could barely focus on anything as I tried to get everything done with an understaffed team. With some sad family news and health issues added on, it all became too much.
I became impatient with myself and others around me. In my distracted state, I even fixated on an outcome that I didn’t truly want or need. Although I knew nothing good ever comes from comparison, I found myself comparing and wishing things were different than what they actually were.
To no surprise, all the imbalanced forces resulted in a deep low followed by some major, level-setting reflection. In some ways, it was almost as if I had stepped back to where I was four years ago before I made significant life changes to let go of what was no longer working for me.
I ended up taking two steps back.
I’ve realized a few things from this experience. I’ve come to see the missteps as a crucial part of the journey.
1 ) Despite knowing better, we can still lose our direction
Starting in 2015, my main objective was to keep learning in whatever I did—regardless of whether I was doing entrepreneurial, freelance, contract or full-time work. Yet from past experience, I’ve learned that I also need a base level of stability and predictability. In taking a challenging, full-time role last year to rapidly learn as well as provide a bit more stability, it slowly became the comfortable, new normal.
This was where my Achilles heel began acting up with the ways we hide from change. I began focusing on movement up a career path that wasn’t my original intent. I began thinking in expectations that differed from reality, and as we all know, that’s a sure way to make everything worse.
I’ve learned these lessons before. I forgot that I took the job to learn, not to get caught up in the drama and stress—and certainly not at the expense of health and being there for family. I tripped and took two steps back. It took some sad news for me to pause long enough to look around and realize I was off-base. But there’s a purpose in taking two steps back.
2. Taking two steps back helps you leap forward
The steps back are crucial in letting you know that something is no longer working and needs to change. This is of course assuming that you’re paying attention. If we’re paying attention when we take two steps back, the pain of the experience helps build our resolve of making a future change. It’s part of the tipping point that prepares you for the leap up ahead.
In my case, the experience helped me to pause and see the larger picture. I saw more clearly that what started off as a great opportunity and learning experience was no longer the same under current circumstances. I saw the full extent of the toll on me as I rationalized and tried to control what I couldn’t possibly control.
The difference this time around was the transition and bias for action was much quicker than three years ago. That’s what happens as you begin recognizing trends that come before the need for change. The two steps back happen faster and you seemingly speed through the change process, because well, you’ve learned it before.
We all need refreshers though (especially on the things we struggle with), and missteps on what you’ve learned before only helps you to make a bigger leap going forward.
3. The steps back spur more growth and learning
As we recognize and experience the missteps we are more prone to repeat over time, we learn more about ourselves. Every experience provides a new level of understanding and learning that we didn’t have before if we just pay attention.
The reality is, no one is perfect. All of us have missteps along the way.
I’ve been reminded just how important misguided moments are. I’m beginning to think these moments are even more important than when everything is going well. Not only do we learn the most about ourselves during challenging situations, it’s also what paves the way for the biggest growth and change.
It’s possible that if the past couple months hadn’t been so challenging from a professional and personal standpoint that it would’ve taken me longer to reach the tipping point this time around. Tripping and taking two steps back has helped me identify more of what I want and what I don’t want in my life. I’ve realized more areas of growth and gained invaluable knowledge as a result of this experience. Most importantly, I’ve recognized the need for change and am in the process of taking action to rebalance and help out family. There will be new adventures to come soon.
As for the future, I can only expect more missteps to come. Not only is taking two steps back a part of the journey, they are a crucial part of the growth process. Time will only tell on what the next experience and learnings will be.