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Knowing When to Pull Back: Taking One Step Back to Take 10 Steps Forward

“Each fresh crisis is an opportunity in disguise.” This quote has resonated with me since I was a little girl. We can’t control the entire world around us and there will be times when even our biggest effort won’t lead to success. We are programmed to perceive failure and regression as a sign of weakness, of perpetual loss. The difference lies in perception. See, the event—the roadblock—is neither good nor bad in itself. It just is.

Steps back can take many forms: change in routines, not getting a promotion at work, personal or family tragedies, injuries, failing a test in school. When missteps do happen, a better strategy is to simply take two steps forward and keep in mind you’re still ahead of where you were before. In the digital world we live in, it’s difficult to see that even your biggest idols deal with rejection and failure, since what they project on social media does not always represent a true picture of their daily struggles. It certainly doesn’t tell the full story of how they got there in the first place.

Take, for example, famous Major League Baseball player Tommy John. Tommy played 26 seasons in the majors, not without setbacks. He faced a career ending injury that doctors called “dead arm injury,” but instead of focusing on the negatives he chose to focus on what he could control—his rehab. He asked the doctors what his chances were for a comeback and they said one in a hundred. He went on to win 164 more games, and now they call that surgery “Tommy John surgery.” His struggle didn’t end there. Twelve years later at the age of 45, he was cut off by the Yankees. They told him he shouldn't be playing baseball at his age. He wasn't ready to be over baseball so he demanded a second chance. He trained as hard as he could for the tryouts and got back in.

The lesson from this story is that we must focus our efforts on what is in our control. The 2000 year old stoic phrase, “ta eph’hemin, ta our ep’hemin,” reminds us that there is what is up to us and what is not up to us.

To complain, give up—that is a choice. So is our attitude, perspective, desire, decision, and determination.

Taking steps back ends up being a win-win situation because there will always be the opportunity to learn and practice new virtues, even if it’s only acceptance or humility. The next time you are faced with adversity, choose to see the positive, focus on what you can control, and see things in perspective.

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