The Paradox of Forward Thinking

Many influential writers, mentors, teachers and our own parents have stressed the importance and necessity of proactivity and goal setting in life. While these things are absolutely essential to progression in anything, many fail to realize that the most effective progress is made as a result of practicing a balance between foresight and reflection.

I know from personal experience that it is easy to become imbalanced in this regard. When determined to develop different parts of our lives – be it our physical, spiritual or occupational selves, we let our future perception of reality guide our present decision making. In this instance of imbalance, the thoughts that guide our actions are solely intended to propel us forward in some personally determined direction, and often times, we fail to realize alternative applications of present experiences.

The opposite is true when our minds are stuck in the past. We may appreciate where we are at any given moment, however without foresight, we are unable to apply the lessons of our past experiences in a meaningful way. The result of this paradigm is stagnation; development is only possible if the present is appreciated and the past is reflected upon. Reflection without intention, may occasionally provide you unanticipated insight; however, your time and energy will be much wiser spent if you’re able to apply your past experiences, to your current ambitions and desires.

An alternative to these extreme examples of imbalance are those people who neither reflect nor think proactively. I view these people as drifters through space and time – simply seeking new experiences for whatever they happen be. Honestly, this perspective of living is probably the easiest, however not the most productive, since energy is only allocated to what is immediately in front of you, with no application past being content.

So, for those of us who are not content with simple observation as we progress through life, let’s explore the benefits of balancing proactivity and reflection, and escaping the paradox of forward thinking.

Reflection is when learning takes place, learning is the fuel that accelerates development.

    • By understanding our past actions, we are able to identify the link between unanticipated instances and outcomes and use this understanding to support better decision making in the future,

Through consistent reflection, we are able to identify recurring experiences and decisions that further our progression towards goals and desires.

    • If we are only focused on the future, we miss occurrences in the present that could benefit multiple facets of our lives. Reflection, combined with forward thinking, enables holistic progress to be made.

Proactivity provides a roadmap for growth, reflection enables flexibility in strategy.

    • With a goal in mind, we generally understand where it is we are headed. Without practicing reflection, we have no way to understand that a pivot in strategy could be necessary – we become stuck in our methods and forego opportunity to accelerate our own growth. Opportunities such as this are not missed because of choice; they are missed because of arrogance.

Without this balance, we divert from the path of effective and most accelerated progression. Without this balance, we are sucked into false realities of the past that are not useful for future growth. Without this balance, we are blind to beneficial opportunities that may be staring us in the face.

The result of this imbalance is the paradox of forward thinking. Ambition combined with reflection, will result in optimal progression, not matter what area of your life you are trying to improve.

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