“You glorify the past when the future dries up.” -U2
We live in times of great upheaval…a world groaning under the pressures and pace of unrelenting economic, social, and intellectual change. The magnification of transparency and torrid rate of turnover allow little, if any time to process these changes with either acceptance or rejection…barely managing to get to realization. We are constantly multitasking the past, present, and the future. The luxury of time no longer exists.
Accept, reject, or cope…there is very little else in-between.
And it is very often, in these most difficult times of change that we resort to coping mechanisms that allow the process to remain mentally manageable. Mechanisms that help us to cope with a world that has shifted under our feet. To manage the uneasiness, resentment, and frustration of a world that no longer exists. To ease our fear that often unknowingly, this unrelenting pace of change has pulled the rug out from under us.
To avoid the fear of the future we have a tendency to hold on to our past.
The future is often frighteningly unfamiliar and foreign…it is the great unknown. Facing that type of overwhelming change can be a difficult prospect at best. So we counter the pain of change by holding tight to what we’ve known and what we’ve always done…we grab hold of our past. And we hold tight, just like the acrophobic standing at the edge of the abyss.
And very often we find ourselves honoring a past that really never existed.
We deflect the possibility of facing an unknown future by exalting a glorified past. One that may or may not ever have existed…one where time has erased the struggles and extolled a grander rememberance of what was…or what had been.
As leaders we have to acknowledge that glorifying the past is a coping mechanism that is often employed in times of formidable change. It is a safety valve to ease the fear and frustration of facing an unknown future. And it is also an obstacle that will undoubtedly keep our teams and organizations from moving forward if allowed.
And while it is necessary that we honor our past and what has come before…it should not serve to hinder us from stepping into a new and bold future.
For if we allow it…what was will always hold back what could be…
“Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.” -Franklin Pierce Adams