We are goal-oriented creatures living in a goal-oriented world. From the day we are born, we consciously or unconsciously look toward the next target or some distant long-term goal. It is this forward-looking mindset that keeps pushes us forward personally and collectively. This is why there is a lot of discussion on goal-setting, planning, productivity, and effectiveness. Whether you consider them in your private life or in your professional life, all these aspects are designed to make you look ahead.
In this post, I would like to discuss the equally important aspect of looking back. And not just looking back to any point in time, but specifically going back to where you started.
Reconnecting to the Value
A few years ago, I led some photography workshops. These workshops weren’t designed for technical explanations or exercises. We all held a camera in our hands, but frankly, it was just an excuse. The entire workshop was about seeing and imaging. This was long before I envisioned seempli and The Creativity Operating System. At that time, my destination was utterly different than it is today. Or at least its details were. I thought of myself as a Photographer. I have worked on urban photography projects and, in between, led these workshops. I haven’t imagined a model of Creativity or a platform that could be used as a Creativity gym. And yet, the essence of the change I aimed to drive — the reason for what I was doing then and what am I doing now — remained the same: helping people see things differently and realize they are creative. This is the value I aim to create.
A lot has been said and written about finding “The Why.” To be engaged, effective, and creative, we must understand and get connected to what motivates us: the value we aim to deliver. The importance of Looking Back in that context is to maintain our connection to that value.
It is not enough to define the value you wish to deliver and then envision a concrete destination (a goal) and the path that will lead there. Your journey toward that destination could be difficult. It will undoubtedly include many ups and downs as well as unexpected turns. Keeping your eyes on the target is essential, but at the same time, you must always keep in mind what made you start the journey in the first place. Maintaining the connection to the value you aimed to create is your best guide in any decision point, dilemma, or opportunity you come across along the way.
Many people phrase the value they wish to deliver as a mission statement and keep that visible wherever they go. This is a great practice, but I would go even further than that. I would take the time to reconnect to the origins of that value — what made me define it. Often, your vision is derived from a specific event or something you have experienced. Reconnect to that. This is the origin of the value you later defined and refined. It is your emotional connection to it.
Refining the Value
The impact of Looking Back is even more significant when the value definition has to be refined. No matter how strong the vision of the value you aim to deliver was, reality keeps changing, and you keep evolving. Looking Back and revisiting the origin of your journey is a good opportunity to revalidate it or change it as needed.
With a goal-oriented mindset, it is easy to miss such opportunities that call for refining or redefining the value you are set to deliver. When you keep looking ahead (even with the value definition clearly visible), you might not realize that the settings that had created the need for that value have already changed.
Setting Fuzzy Goals allows you to change the destination along the way. By Looking Back you open the possibility to completely change the direction — the essence of your journey. Deciding to change direction in such a case is not a whim. When the core reason that made you start the journey has changed, it is an excellent reason to stop for a minute and reconsider where you are heading.
Acknowledging the Value
Maybe the greatest (and less acclaimed) effect of Looking Back lies in understanding where you are in your journey. Where you have started is an excellent reference point — one that is not often used.
When you have a goal or a vision ahead of you, it is perfectly natural to consider where you are based on that desired outcome. This is almost the exclusive approach in organizations, but it also dominates how many of us are evaluating personal goals. People and organizations are constantly trying to understand how far or close they are from a future reality. It helps them plan the road ahead and motivates them in their journey.
The problem with evaluating where you are compared to the destination is that you are using only one reference point. As much as it could motivate you, it can also have the opposite effect, especially when it comes to grand, long-term goals. Looking Back at where you have started provides an additional perspective. It is focused on the path you have already walked in: what you have already done and managed to achieve. Most changes and most acts of Creativity are not instantaneous. They might be triggered instantly, but realizing their potential takes time. Constantly reflecting on how far you have gone from your starting point is a great way to acknowledge the value of the journey, even if the destination is still far on the horizon. Apart from being a boost of motivation, Looking Back can also provide valuable insights into the following steps based on the ones you’ve already done.
Looking Back is an act of Observation and Wondering. To deeply understand the reasons for taking the journey and identify the unique value you aim to provide, you have to mindfully Observe yourself and your surroundings. You have to Wonder what drives you forward and what you really aim to achieve. In some cases, you just know it. In most cases, there is a huge benefit in taking the time to actively explore the origins of your journey and revisit them frequently to reconnect and refine them and to celebrate how much you have already achieved.