Leadership Advance

Leadership Thoughts for Life Long Learners

Backwards Living

Have you ever starting viewing a football game in the third quarter?  While I love watching football, regardless of the quarter, I understand that at the end of the day all that matters is whether the final score shows that your team scored more or fewer points than the other team.  If you pick up a game in the third quarter the first question you ask is, what is the score.  The reason you want to know what the score is in the third quarter is because it gives you a glimpse as to what happened in the first two quarters and helps bring you up to speed on the game.

When a leader considers their life, or the life of their organization, it is critical for them to learn the skill of backwards living.  What I mean by this is simply the results you desire do not automatically transpire, but the results at the end are a culmination of the choices you made and the things you did in the ensuing years prior.  The final score of a football game is not determined in the last minute of the game, but it is a culmination of everything that happened throughout all four quarters. As a leader the trajectory of your life today will determine the destination you arrive at tomorrow.

Stephen Covey made this principle famous in his book entitled, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.  The habit Covey identified is called, Beginning With the End in Mind, or as I am calling it, backwards living.  If the leader desires to put this principle into practice they must begin by clearly identifying what they desire the results to be before they ever begin their journey.  When we have knowledge of where we are going, we must then be able to clearly identify our present reality.   Just as a GPS in your car needs an ending point (results) as well as a starting point (reality) to give clear directions, the leader must determine both if they desire to make forward progress.

In my experience, forward progress is stunted when either the present reality or the desired results are not clearly articulated.  It is only when we know who and where we are and who we want to become and where we want to go are clearly defined that we begin to make forward progress.  When we can identify where we need to be, it helps us measure any incremental progress we make towards meeting our goal and it gives us the opportunity to celebrate the progress along the way.

So, where are you?  Or maybe a better question would be, Who are you?  Once you determine this you can begin to ask yourself who you want to become as well as where you want to go?  I am a big proponent of living backwards simply because I have learned that living backwards is proactive, whereas trying to live forward is reactive in nature.  When I live backwards I live with intention, when I live forward I just take what comes to me.


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