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#13 - French Proverb: To Perform A Good Jump, Step Back So You Can Jump Further Forward.
Reflections on how to prep for a next step that will take you farther.
Proverbs on Blast is a newsletter that publishes reflection on PROVERBS and the gems they offer for personal and professional growth. Posts are written by a learner on a quest for more wisdom (me). Please keep reading. Comment at the end. Share this post. Subscribe for more.
It’s 4 days to the start of a new year. With or without our help, the new year will roll in and the time counter will begin. We will celebrate the special day, thankful that we made the crossover. We will rejoice with others who did, calling, texting, visiting, and emailing others in gratitude that we’re still in the land of the living. In settings where Christmas is not really a thing, the New Year will be a big celebration of thanks. In places that began with celebrations dedicated to thanksgiving and extended to Christmas, the New Year holiday will be the culmination of a chain of opportunities to reflect and rejoice with feasting, music, and sharing of gifts.
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The initial part of the New Year will encapsulate all of those opportunities with something slightly more—a combination of nostalgia for the end of a full year and a tingling trepidation about the start of another full cycle of months, weeks, and days. There’s little that’s matter-of-factly about it and lots that’s filled with wonder and excitement. It has a level of certainty about the parts that you’ve probably mapped out, and intrigue about the parts you cannot yet imagine. As you think about the mysterious certainty of the year that will be upon us soon, ponder the counsel of this French proverb: “To perform a good jump, step back so you can jump further forward.” If you understand French, it’s “reculez pour mieux sauter.”
Let’s begin with the 60 seconds between 11:59 pm on December 31 and 12 midnight on January 1. It represents a hurdle to jump. The entire 365 days of the new year that’s just a short while away? It’s another hurdle you’ll need to jump. So will the 24-hour cycle of each of the days of the new year we all look forward to. The proverb says that if you want your jump to be good, start by taking a step back now.
Step Back and Jump Shot
The French proverb translated “step back so to jump further forward” has been used to justify first taking actions that may appear counter-productive but ensures better performance and outcomes. Step back before a jump does not mean retreat, regression, or confer a strategic disadvantage. Instead, a step back in the short term, such as before a jump is what allows you to gain momentum for a good and further jump. In the longer term, a step back ensures rest, recovery, rejuvenation, and relaunch for a good or better finish.
The act of stepping back is both a technique and a philosophy in sports. You learn by instinct, training, or practice that stepping back before moving forward helps build momentum for a faster run or a further jump. Interestingly, the step back before a jump is more common in basketball than in the sports where you might think it exists, like the four jump-focused sports of long jump, triple jump, high jump, and pole vault.
In basketball, the purpose of the step back is to help shorter players get some separation from their jumpers regardless of height and size, before taking the jump shot that will sail the ball above their heads. Many of the greats mastered it and each new generation of competitive basketballers continues to develop the technique.
In addition to the step back being a sports technique, coaches in every sport also understand the wisdom of the proverb and adopt it as a philosophy to design their training regimen. They understand their athletes’ career as a multi-part process that involves the symbolic acts of stepping back and jumping. Hence, there is a time for an athlete to train, a time to play, and a time to rest. The rest period is considered important, and one to be managed by the coach and athlete as a proactive measure to ensure peak performance. For those who play sports competitively on a rigorous months-long schedule through the year, their career and wellbeing depend on the philosophy of the step back.
While you may not play any sport, your wellbeing and/or career also depends on the step back philosophy. Against the backdrop of being at the cusp of a passing year and an approaching one, what do you need to step back from to be able to jump further forward? And how far back will you need to go to be able to make your New Year jump good?
Step Back Before the New Year
You’ve done 360+ days already this year. Those days are worth pondering. The activities you put into them are worth assessing. Also, it’d be nice if you can pause to process where you are now as you think or plan towards where you want to be in the new year. So, step back to reflect on the mental, social, physical, and spiritual aspects of your life. Think about your health, wealth, relationships, work, or school. Do you need to take a major step of taking time off to travel somewhere to recharge to relaunch? Or to simply start sleeping earlier and longer to be able to rise earlier and with the right momentum to be more alert during the days of the new year? You’ll likely not know if you keep going at the pace you’ve been on for month if you don’t step back to find out what you need to be able to jump better and further.
Here are 3 areas of your life to step back on for starters:
Your Body. The body always speaks but are you hearing what yours is saying? Do you listen? Constant physical activity leads to burnout, decline in performance, loss of motivation, fatigue, and many other challenges. Reset is crucial so the body can thereafter perform a better and further jump into desired outcomes. What is your body telling you at this year-end before a new year begins? To spring into a jump or to take a step back before jumping?
Your Mind. The mind fades out gradually when overused. It stops feeling the spark for the things it normally enjoys and does well. It stops letting in rays of light and warmth that color how we see, hear, and feel things. When the light goes out, the mind can turn to a dark, dreary place that’s a cold and shriveled form of itself. How much light and warmth is your pace, environment, relationships, and habits letting into your mind at this year-end? Where are you—physically, emotionally, and in every other way—and how is your location shaping the type and intensity of light that goes in or gets blocked from your mind? It’s worth stepping back to process. Your findings may help you build the momentum for a good jump in the new year.
Your Soul. Different religions define the human soul differently. For common ground, the Merriam Webster dictionary defines the soul as “the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life” or “the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe.” This is the part of our being that functions as the compass, GPS, telescope, microscope all rolled into one. It is the driving force of much of what takes place in our mind and body. When was the last time you took a step back on your soul before jumping into a decision or activity? You still have a few days in this passing year. Step back and look deep into your soul before jumping into the new year.
Are you in the right frame of mind and body to be able to jump well and far in the new year that’s around the corner? Make an appointment to review your work or education activities this year as you think about your goals for next year.
There is a minimum standard for the soul of a human being. The actual standard, relative to the minimum, depends on age, intellect, position, exposure, wealth, professions, and station in life. Does your soul meet the requisite standards of a human of your caliber? Why not step back to find out so you can jump better and land farther in the new year?
My Appreciation to You
I took a step back to review my activities for this year, which includes this weekly blog. It’s now 3 months old, a key part of the last quarter of the year. I started writing it for myself as some sort of online journal. Then I told someone about it. And another person. After a month, I worked up the courage to tell more people and post excerpts on LinkedIn and Twitter. Some people told their people, who then subscribed. Then, there are those of you who subscribed because you stumbled on the link somewhere.
This 13th edition is a fitting end to the blog’s first quarter and the 2022 calendar year. I close this time frame with heartfelt gratitude for your support and encouragement. I appreciate your feedback via email, text, and phone calls and take them seriously. Thank you to those who post their comments after the posts so others can learn from your insights. I look forward to growing the comments community with more subscribers posting there so more people can benefit from our collective insights. Thank you all for your support.
My step back to assess the first quarter of this blog allowed me to take a jump shot. Next week, I will share the exciting update with you.
As we count down to the last second of this year, I wish you all the best. I won’t be there when you ring in the new year, but I will be thinking about you as I cross over into January 1. Know that I am grateful for your support. Know that I am thankful for your belief in me and for helping to grow this project. May the new year bring you the fulfillment of your dreams.
See you next year!
Were you able to make a difference this year? If you had to overcome feeling small or being told you were too small to make a difference, how did you? Share your steps to inspire and teach us.
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