Guest Blog: Past-Forward, Future-Back

The following is an excerpt from a blog by Stephen Shedletzky, the founder of InspirAction.

There are two fundamental concepts that have shaped my career, purpose and life. I want to share them with you in the hope that these support your journey towards fulfillment. I suppose it would be valuable to first offer my definition of fulfillment, noting that all of my ideas are recycled. My main influences are borrowed from the study of positive psychology and leadership:

Fulfillment = (doing activities that make time stand still for you) X (contributing to a personally meaningful cause bigger than you)

It’s important to use multiplication (X) in this equation because it is combustible. When one of the two factors in the equation is missing (activities or a meaningful cause), stress will increase, passion will decrease and fulfillment will not result.

Onto the two fundamental concepts that fall into these categories: Past-Forward and Future-Back.


What have been the peak experiences and patterns from your past that you can continue to bring forward on your journey? When have you felt at your best? When have you felt most energized and engaged? When do you lose track of time because time becomes irrelevant? What have been the commonalities between these peak experiences in your life? Give yourself permission to dig back to your first childhood memories all the way up to the present time. What do you find?

I am inspired by this Steve Jobs’ quote from his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford: “You cannot connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect the dots looking back.”

Thinking about this quote, I imagine a starry night sky—millions of lights and possibilities. Though this can inspire an “anything is possible” feeling, I actually get overwhelmed by this “the sky is my possibility” thought, especially during a time of transition, discovery and urgency. Anything is possible, but what the heck do I do next? Jobs’ quote helps me realize that the fulfilling moments from my past are the best predictors of my future.

So that’s Past-Forward. What are the commonalities amongst the experiences from your past that can propel you forward? When do you love what you do? How can you bring more of that into your everyday?


This is a fun one for me! Who are the people in your life (that you know personally or not) that inspire you? Who makes you go “WOW”?! What about them makes you have that response? How can you connect with these people to learn more about them? How can you go about unapologetically pursuing what inspires you? What would it be like to go “WOW” about yourself?! Giddy up!

A friend shared Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk with me, and five months later I had the chance to experience Simon give a one-hour keynote in Toronto. I met him briefly and fortunately later connected with Simon on LinkedIn—he shortly afterward took his profile off LinkedIn, as he was being inundated and distracted from his mission with so many personal notes to respond to. Fortunately, I had his email address from our earlier exchange on LinkedIn. I read his book and was INSPIRED; so, I chose to give him an authentic taste of his own medicine by writing him what I now call a five-paragraph email:

1. This is how we are connected: Simon, we met at the Art of Management conference in Toronto in November 2010.
2. This is why you inspire me: I believe in your mission: to inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that, together, we can change our world.
3. Here is what I am inspired to do because of your influence: Continuing to discover my “why”/purpose, and lead my life and career centered around that purpose.
4. Here is how you can help me with that: Learning more about your journey and sharing our beliefs will propel me forward.
5. I would like to connect, whether over the phone or in person.

I have found that if you get paragraph two and three right—what you are inspired by and inspired to do is in line with what they believe—the receiver will be glad to connect with you. You are a beacon contributing towards their contribution. Why wouldn’t they want to help you?

So, Future-Back—discover who inspires you. Define what future would inspire you and work back from that. What would it be like to centre your future around the qualities of those that inspire you? Seems like you may inspire yourself by your journey. I am all about that.

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