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Leadership: Living Through the Rear View Mirror

My business cards have a shadow of a person driving with a reflection in the rear-view mirror. Why? Because I tell my clients “If you live your life by constantly looking in the rear-view mirror, you’ll eventually crash and burn. Objects (or past history) in rear view mirrors do appear larger than they really are. Our pasts seem to be magnified exponentially in our memories.

My business cards have a shadow of a person driving with a reflection in the rear-view mirror. Why? Because I tell my clients “If you live your life by constantly looking in the rear-view mirror, you’ll eventually crash and burn. Objects (or past history) in rear view mirrors do appear larger than they really are. Our pasts seem to be magnified exponentially in our memories.

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To build on my post for a moment from July 11th 2007 Direction Defined or Not , you can’t live your life through your past. You can build on it and move forward because of it, for good or bad but you can’t live on your laurels forever. You’ll have to start living your future right now or before you know it, you’ll be looking at just more of the same and no movement whatsoever. For leaders, that could very well mean being put out to pasture and replaced by those who build a future by the choices they make right now. Successful leaders celebrate their successes, build on them and move forward. They constantly reinvent.

Recently I was with a group of people working together to create business plans. What an amazing experience! Each person asked for help and support in making their professional (and in some instances personal) dreams a reality. Yet there was one who started off every sentence by “Oh I used to do that, and when I did, I did it this way!” His was the only way, the best way, and he seemed to have done it all. If there were twenty projects and directions the others wanted to take you can be sure he said he had done all of them at some point in his life, and yet he was the only one who had no definitive direction as to where he wanted to go for his future. The others around the table gave him some ideas he might want to work with. He nodded as if he was actually listening but ran with none of them. Through the week we kept hearing “When I used to do that…”

A few weeks have now passed and I’m watching as the others work towards their plans and are actually building a life they love. They’re making professional changes to grow and are collaborating on both small and large projects that will give them more visibility, knowledge, experience and expertise in their fields, helping them achieve their level of excellence. And yet this individual, while he looks in his rear-view mirror is at a standstill for now. He’s stalled in the past and has no vision whatsoever for his future.

Does this sound like anyone you know? You can only challenge someone so far to take a good hard look at where they’re at in the scheme of things, but if they’re not willing to truly see the path they’re on, they will eventually crash and burn. It’ll then be much harder to pick up the pieces and start from scratch.

Some points for you to ponder:

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Do you find yourself thinking and speaking in the past tense?

Do you have a plan for your future? Not necessarily a list of goals but a dream you’re working towards?

Who can you ask for help so you can really get there and make it happen?

What do you need to know that you don’t know? (A great barometer)

People generally find it easier to help others than to ask for help. If you like the feeling of giving to help someone else to realize their dreams, why in the world would you deprive others of feeling the same way when they want to help you?

Have you articulated what your future will look like? Until you see it, touch it and breathe it, how can you figure out ways and steps forward to make it happen?

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No ceiling, just sky.

Donna Karlin • Executive and Political Shadow Coach™ • Ottawa, Canada • •www.abetterperspective.com

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About the author

Donna Karlin CEC, Diplomate IABMCP and founder and principal of A Better Perspective® & The School of Shadow Coaching, has pioneered the specialized practice of Shadow Coaching® with global political, government, business and senior organizational leaders in the public and private sectors. Donna capitalizes on almost 30 years of experience in coaching, consulting and training to help clients and their organizations evolve into their level of excellence

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