There is a phrase. "You have to know where you've been before you know where you're going." This is true - understanding where you have come from will give you some fantastic perspective on where you want to go. Our pasts have shaped our present and have significantly impacted our future decisions. Now, when I talk about looking up and around, I'm talking about being present and understanding what's in front of you. This is about using what you've learned from past experiences to tackle obstacles in your way and prevent them from coming back in the future.
Imagine that you are about to start your massive hike to the summit of Pikes Peak. Your gear is ready, you've trained your body, and you're mentally prepared for the trek. This may seem like a silly question, but would you start the hike by walking forward or backward? Forward, of course. Bear with me for a second. Being physically and mentally prepared are critical to success, but if you start the hike walking backward you won't make it 100 yards before you trip over a rock or run into someone else. The same is true in leading. Yes, we have to use what we've learned from the past to blaze new trails and move forward, but we have to be present and aware of what's in front of us and all around us.
As we lead people or even ourselves, we have to be aware of what's happening around us and pay attention to what lies ahead. John Maxwell says it bluntly, "If you don't change the direction you are going, then you're likely to end up where you're heading…". Great advice. I think Dr. Maxwell is saying here that if we aren't open to the changing environment around us and adapt to it, we will continue down a path of consistent mediocrity when we were meant for so much more.
As we lead our teams, families, and ourselves, we must understand when change needs to happen and how that change will affect the future. If we see an obstacle along the trail, should we keep heading toward it or change our course? Should we go around it, grab a chainsaw and eliminate it? When we identify a problem that requires a new solution, should we lean on our own understanding of the problem based on what we already know, or should we look around at the people around us for help and a new perspective? Ponder these questions, but in my opinion, one of the best leadership qualities is the ability to use whatever available resources we have around us, including our people, to accomplish a mission.
As you head up the incline, take time to enjoy the journey—look around you and experience beauty—sights and sounds. In your everyday grind, you can't forget to get out from behind your computer and realize what's going on around you. Get to really know your people. Get to know the culture in which you work. Looking around will keep you aware of potential obstacles in your incline. Look up: take a breath and occasionally pause to see where you still have to go. Look down: Likewise, turn around and see how far you have already come. Looking up, down, and around can all be huge motivators that allow you to keep putting one foot in front of the other.