Once, when my daughter Kaya was younger, we were at a restaurant that had those placemats with games and activities for kids. She was doing mazes, and when I looked over, I saw she'd gone through three of them without making a mistake. Not a single dead end.
"Wow, you're good at mazes," I said. "How did you do that?"
She just shrugged. "Easy. You start at the end, and go backwards."
Stephen nodded, like she'd just said something profound. "That's how those things are designed. They trip you up if you go forward, but going backwards, the path is clear."
That's how it hit me: going backwards is a big way to move forward.
As soon as I thought it, I started seeing examples everywhere. Stephen does it all the time, so I didn't have to look far. When he wants something, he'll imagine that it's already happened. He'll get really clear on what that looks and feels like to have already achieved it.
From there, he'll work backwards. What did he do to get there? What steps did he take? How did he work around obstacles and get to the finish line?
So I decided to put it into practice. At the time, my team and I were creating a new product, the Moticise Anxiety Antidote. I'd had trouble getting started, because stress is such a big issue, and it was so important that this product be useful to people. But there was so much to think about! I didn't know where to start.
So I envisioned the end product – and then, it became manageable.
I knew it would include exercises and meditations. It would have tips on diet and nutrition as well as spirituality and creativity. It would have videos, worksheets, and audios. I wanted it to be fun, easy, light, and doable – that is, high content, but it could be done quickly.
And, naturally, I knew it would approach stress through the mind, body, and spirit. That meant combining physical exercises with mindset tools. And that, I know how to do.
So my team and I went to work. We knew what we had to do, based on looking backwards. And now we have this very cool, very stress-reducing product that's helped a lot of people. (If you're interested, the Anxiety Antidote will be available again soon – keep an eye out for more info!)
Hindsight is twenty twenty, right? So why not put our imaginations to work, so we can use it to our advantage?
Notice that there are two steps there: first, stepping into the future. Then looking back.
So get as clear as you can on what you want the end goal to look like. Is it you winning an Oscar? Owning a house on the beach? Nailing that interview next week? It can be big, small, far away or next week. Whatever it is, imagine it in the fullest detail you can. And then, from there, look back. How did you get there?
There's another way that looking backwards helps, and it doesn't require that first step. From right here, right where you are now, look back to your past. What's a time you succeeded?
What's a time you did something you're really proud of?
What helped you succeed? What did you do differently?
What you'll find is that there are often concrete differences between times you've succeeded and times you haven’t. (Often, it's a matter of making sure your beliefs are aligned with your actions). And by looking backward to understand what those differences are, you can recreate the conditions that contributed to your success.
So there you have it – two ways looking backwards will help you reach a goal. You can always step into the future of your success, and look back to see what path you took. And you can always look back on past successes, to see what helped you reach the top.
Go out, move forward, and shine.
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