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Two steps forward and one step back. Ever use that phrase to describe the progress with yourself, your relationships, or your workplace? It is generally used as a negative. You are in essence saying that you are not accomplishing your goals. But is this really the case?

Shouldn’t we really be using this phrase in a positive light? Two steps are greater than one step. Going forward is certainly preferred and going backward is seen as being a failure. However, isn’t the important part the two steps forward? After all, if you never go forward at all you are, at best, standing still. In reality, you are more likely to be moving backward.

Sure, it’s frustrating to make some forward progress and then be stopped or stymied. You are trying to achieve something of value, and just when you are starting to see some improvement it seems like the defeats come. We blame the culture around us, the people around us, or just the circumstances that have slowed us down. We look with jealousy at where we wanted to be and anger at where we ended up.

But at the end of the day, if we, in fact, took two steps forward and only one back, then we are one step closer to our goal. We identified where we need to be and moved positively in that direction. While setbacks occur, the forward progress was gained. This is our chance to look at the step backward and determine its cause. What went on that caused a problem? Is there a process that needs to be tweaked or a mindset that can be changed? Who needs to be added to the team to make gains or, perhaps, who needs to be removed? By identifying the factors that caused lost ground, we are in a better position to avoid them in the future, thus gaining more positive yardage.

Conversely, this is also a time to look at our two steps forward. What worked that caused this surge forward? How do we capitalize on the positive feelings that come with accomplishments and parlay them into future successes? It’s also a time to make sure that our forward steps were in the correct direction to begin with. After all, there’s nothing to be proud of when we are making good progress towards the wrong goal. Is our momentum in the forward steps repeatable, and if so, how do we do this?

This is not some snarky psychological attempt to alter your mindset and see everything through rose colored glasses. At some point, your progress needs to be continually moving forward. But to think that there will never be stutter steps, stalls, or losses is to not be realistic. When these things occur, and they will, it is our attitude that determines how quickly we will recover and move forward again. Face the reality of the situation, identify the problems, and take positive steps to correct them. Don’t allow the morale of the culture to focus on the negatives. Learn to acknowledge and support the positives.

The statement of two steps forward and one step backward does not indicate the size of the steps. If we can make it our goal to always be making two big steps forward, then we will be able to absorb the smaller backward ones that will inevitably take place. Focus on where your goal is, not where you currently are. At the end of each day, if you have made more forward steps than backward ones, you will be closer to where you need to be.

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