Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

A lot of us fill our heads with should, even when we often don’t even want or need that thing we think we “should” work for. We have learned to believe that whenever we learn or try something new, we should improve a little at a time, steadily, until we are “perfect” at whatever it is. Every bike ride should go better than the last, every speech we make should be better than the last, everything should become more and more perfect over time, if we’re doing it “right”. This gets exhausting, right?

One of my favorite things to remind client is to “stop should-ing all over yourself” (partly, sure, because it implies vulgarity, but mostly because all my clients know what I mean). Where has should gotten you lately? Maybe into trouble? Maybe into a pattern, a job, a relationship you wish you didn’t have?

Our belief in the powerful should goes along with our idea that growth is supposed to be linear. That idea of incremental and steady progress. But in my experience, when I have let go of should, when I can stop worrying about measuring my progress in unmeasurable things like fulfillment and pleasure, growth/change/life becomes pleasantly nonlinear. Sometimes my path becomes nothing at all like a straight line—it’s more like a series of dots, or a fingerpainted smear, or a sculpture.

And sometimes I take two steps forward and then one step back.

Sure, that step “back” often feels frustrating. But sometimes, if I look at it through a different lens, it turns out that the stumble was actually the growth I really wanted. That the two steps forward were done under the influence of should, and the step back gave me the perspective I really wanted.

Where in your life have you taken a step back lately? Where could you use a different perspective?