The Past is Irrelevant – Move On
Hard to believe that 2013 is half over and as usual, I like many other people, see the days and months pass by in a whirlwind. When that happens, I think it can be easy to lose track of what’s important, how to manage our lives, and how to manage ourselves. Just last week I was fortunate enough to attend an internal training, or what I prefer to call, an enlightenment program. In it, we were introduced to concepts and perspectives that I had not considered in regard to understanding oneself which included, admitting weaknesses, honing in on strengths, and how to be a better listener and leader. It comprised of three challenging and mentally exhausting days where I was able to meet new people, join a peer group to work closely with for the next year, and challenge myself by setting goals and learning how to recognize the attributes that damage my character, productivity, and leadership ability, as well as the quality attributes I should hone in on and take advantage of.
‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’ by Marshall Goldsmith, was one of the books we were assigned to read and has some excellent material on leadership and productivity. In this specific post I’ll reference some of Goldsmith’s remarks and talk about the topic of moving forward, which is a bad habit that Goldsmith refers to as “Clinging to the past”. All of us, at one time or another, have had a bad relationship moment due to any number of unique circumstances. It could be with a spouse, at classmate, or perhaps a co-worker or customer, but either way, all of us have either held the past against someone else or another individual has held the past against us. Why is this a bad thing? Clinging to the past is a way to reject or deflect blame from ourselves toward people or events from our past and encourages you to be closed-minded.
The first thing I thought of when I read this section of the book was my senior manager telling us during a team meeting to assume positive intent. When you assume positive intent as you receive information, your auto-reject response is less likely to jump out of your mouth and your listening ability is enhanced. When you put your mind into that mode, it makes it more difficult to reject or expand on another person’s ideas or thoughts with regard to a particular topic. I tend to think that most people enter meetings or conference calls with the baggage of past projects or past relationships but if you assume positive intent and don’t cling to the past, you will most likely be able to provide value beyond your norm.
We cling to the past as a way of contrasting it with the present – usually to highlight something positive about ourselves at the expense of someone else. – Marshall Goldsmith
How does this relate to clinging to the past? Assume positive intent and don’t blame or hold other people accountable for choices that you have made. You can’t rewrite or change the past and there’s no need to make excuses for it. Don’t use your past experiences to blame someone else for anything that’s gone wrong, especially from a project team or internal group. The past is irrelevant. Learn from it of course, but move on, be respectful, and assume the people you are working with have positive intent.