Are you running backwards?


Sometimes I run backwards. And even sideways.

If we only run forwards, the muscles in the front part of our body become well defined, but the backside of our legs, our tooshy and our upper back become under worked.

Running backwards gives you an interesting perspective. You see life in reverse. It can help you to take things in and experience it, and it seems easier to make sense of what is happening to you. But running backwards too much can have obvious risks. You only see what you passed by and you lack a forward vision. You can also fall and get a bump on your head, which is never a good thing.

When we become focused primarily on what has passed by, this is called Rumination. We all do it and sometimes it can be helpful to rehash our experience as a way to learn. Too much rumination can keep us locked in reverse. Studies have shown that excessive ruminators are 4 times more likely to experience depression or other mental health symptoms.

Being locked in reverse is not helpful, but we all need to do it. I have friends whose car lost the ability to shift into reverse. Her transmission lost a gear. Reverse isn’t really a sexy gear, and going backwards is not a feature that we get too excited about… until we can’t do it. Imagine trying to park without being able to back up.

Living our whole life in reverse can lead to rumination and a lack of vision. Ignoring our need to back up and take a second look can lead to accidents.

Backwards thinking is a skill that we should not overlook. Studies on Introverts and Extroverts show that the tendency to reflect and take a second look can be a strategic advantage. Backwards thinking slows us down and it can awaken our spirit. Bringing more of our souls to work can make us happier, more resilient and better human beings.

If you want to build your backside muscles and your backwards view, try one of these:

  • Pick a straight section of an unobstructed path and walk backwards. You may have to look sideways to make sure you don’t fall over. Just take things in. Go slow, please. If necessary, wear a helmet.
  • Sit on a park bench and close your eyes. Listen to whatever you hear. I did this the other day and it is interesting how you can hear the sound of the wind in your ears and also hear how the wind sounds as it flows through trees and moves over buildings.
  • Just stand still. Maybe on your break, go to a public place that you have visited before. Then stand still and watch. Look for things that you have ignored because you move too quickly.
  • At the end of the day, write down what you have done. This is not a ‘to do’ list, but an ‘I did’ list. It can be little things like went for a walk or read a book for 10 minutes, or it can be big things like resolving a conflict between staff. I keep a book like this and note things throughout my day. I forget stuff if I leave it too long. It helps me to feel less anxious, more aware of my strengths and passions, and keep track of what I am accomplishing.
  • If you are a ruminator, like me, give your brain something productive to think about. Come up with 10 ideas for how you could create a better lawn mower, mouse trap, electric car or plunger. Be creative. Mentally recreate the floor plan to your home, or a hotel that you visited. Imagine yourself as a superhero/heroine and create a story to suit your super strengths. Create a gratefulness list with 50 items. Then make it 75.

Just like a car needs a reverse gear and a rear view mirror, you and I need to know how to back up. Backing up can slow us down, make us more reflective and we may even notice things that we never imagined.

Your buns (and your significant other) will thank you!

Keep it real


2 thoughts on “Are you running backwards?

  1. This piece was really interesting. A little while ago, the “just stand still” advice overcame me. Waiting in a slow grocery line, I kind of went into a meditative/mindful state instead of being agitated/doing the internal cursing and started observing my surroundings like I’d never done before. It was very enlightening about how our mind/attitude influences the feel of the moment. Great article. 🙂


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