Walking (and Working) Backwards

Did you ever try walking backwards? I did the other day. Well, not actually walking backwards…Backwards

I take a walk daily. I’ve been doing so since I was a little girl. It feels so good, so natural and it’s such a simple way to exercise my body and my mind.

The other day, on a whim, I decided to start at the end of my usual route and walk from there to where I usually begin my walk. I know…that wasn’t exactly rocket science, but it was interesting to take in everything in reverse, to see the “backs” of things: trees, buildings, signs, everything.

As I “reverse-walked,” I couldn’t help but see things differently. I spied a hidden garden that I’d never noticed before. I saw sunlight glistening on a building, giving it a dazzling glow that I’d been missing all those years I’d been approaching from the opposite direction. And, I couldn’t help thinking that I should walk backwards more often, literally and figuratively.

What might I be missing each time I start a project at “the beginning”? Could I achieve a better result if I started somewhere in “the middle” or, even, at “the end”?

Could I be a better problem solver if I consciously worked backwards? By clearly defining what the end result should be, could I reverse-engineer the steps needed to reach that goal?

Certainly, as a musician, I recall teachers suggesting that the best way to learn a piece of music is to “learn it backwards.” In other words, start from the final measure, then append and learn a few prior measures, little by little, until you find your way back to the beginning. This works particularly well when memorizing anything.

Might I be more creative if I consciously “work backwards” more often? It’s incredibly easy to fall into the habit of sticking to a system, especially when that system has been working well for a long time. If I reverse my creative process, might my results be, dare I say it, more creative?

The simple exercise of taking my walk from “back to front” has reminded me that there is more than one way to approach a problem, reach a goal or generate a new idea.

I need to practice walking backwards more often.

What analogies can you add to this list?

by Rebecca Cochran

One thought on “Walking (and Working) Backwards

  1. I am reminded of the famous National Geographic Photographer who went on to become an international speaker with his Leadership DVDs on Creativity and Focus Your Vision: “Turn around, look at things differently, what are you not seeing in the scene at first glances, what are you missing….” Superb article Rebecca.

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