Sometimes We Need to Go Backward Before We Can Move Forward

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” ~Albert Einstein

There I was in January, on the floor, physically and emotionally. From the outside, I probably looked like every one else attending yoga class off Robertson Blvd. that Sunday morning, but to me, on the inside, especially within my heart, I was in shambles.

And then, there was a moment I had not expected.

The waterworks came as I heard the teacher say, “Sometimes, you feel as though you are riding the bicycle backwards. You feel like you are backtracking and heading in the wrong direction, but really what’s happening is contraction and release. The universe is preparing you for something much greater and like a sling shot, it’s going to shoot you forward—you just have to move backwards for a little bit.”

I looked over at my roommate, eyes welled up with tears of disbelief and quickly thought to myself, “I’m an independent, successful woman and I get to control what direction my bike ride is going. So listen up universe, get me off this backwards bicycle, pronto!”

I felt a temporary sense of relief for 90 minutes or so. Then, upon my walk home, my heart was breaking again.

Why the sorrow? I spent the majority of 2011 really clarifying what I was looking to get out of life: success, giving back, a loving relationship, traveling the world. For the most part, I was successful in these pursuits.

I completed my 30th Birthday Build for Habitat For Humanity in honor of 9/11. I had been able to cross bi-coastal living off my bucket list and returned back to the home base of LA. I had even started to pick up a few new clients and began exploring additional revenue streams. Sounds good, right?

What also happened is that I got used to getting everything I wanted and set out to achieve.

I got used to things working on this magic time frame—put it out there and it will happen exactly as you planned and wanted it to happen. I can hear you thinking, “Um, ok—so what’s the problem with that?”

Nothing, other than I had total disregard for divine order and divine timing.

That all changed when one thing I thought I wanted most in 2011 officially came crashing down like a ton of Jenga blocks and my inner critic and ego had a field day with me.

We’ve all been “there” before—whether it’s missing out on the job of your dreams, the trip of a lifetime, or the soul mate you spotted in the produce section of the grocery store.

We set our intentions and eyes on something, we believe the outcome will be a certain way and when things don’t go quite as planned, it’s a bummer!

You see, on the one hand, I wanted to be true to the intentions I put together for myself in 2011 (recall from list above). But in order to be true to myself, I had to let go of something that was very dear to me at that time.

And there I was in yoga class, questioning my decision, thinking, “Did I do the right thing? If it was the right thing for me, then why am I so terribly sad?”

I couldn’t accept that what had passed was over, that I had to live in the present and not play reruns over and over in my head. Have you had one of those replays with yourself before? It’s painful.

You want to trust your instincts and decisions that you make for yourself, yet your present state of being and heart have a conflicting opinion. The doubt over my decision was torture.

I spent the rest of January trying to shake my off my disappointment (in between crying myself to sleep or bursting in to tears—in the shower of all places).

I wanted to trust that the wise words of the yoga teacher would come true, that the universe was preparing me for something greater. And then toward the end of the month, things started to happen. It took four weeks of crying and doubting—not even chocolate, yoga or red wine could save me.

But the more I gave in to riding the bicycle backwards and embracing my temporary sadness, the more the universe started rewarding me. It was the strangest thing.

Here I had spent most of my life fighting for what I needed and making sure I got it.

My parents divorced when I was in high school so I started working in ninth grade. The majority of my life, I had always set out to do what I needed to and got the results I wanted because I had no choice; I had to take care of myself.

It was mind-blowing to think that, when I gave 150% of my effort to try and make something work and failed at it miserably, I would be rewarded. But it was true.

First came the opportunity to create video content for my business with a respected production team. I had wanted to work with them for such a long time and the universe handed me an opportunity, just like that!

After the videos came the execution of a highly successful client event in LA with six days notice. I started getting my confidence back.

Then came a travel opportunity for business, followed by making new contacts, which lead to a new client. Then I won a contest and was rewarded with some healthy, free prizes.

My point is that all of the sudden, the sorrow was gone and had been replaced by new experiences which were taking me personally and professionally to the next level. I could feel a progression, a new sense of responsibility and it certainly felt good.

The tears were replaced with smiles. My focus shifted from the past to the present and future. My mentor even told me, “Learn to be like a frog. They can’t jump backwards; they can only jump forwards. Leave the past in the past. Leap ahead.” And so I did.

Then another unexpected incident occurred on March 8th. I lost my grandmother. All my life, she had been my source of inspiration, light, love—my role model.

Here was another incident that I couldn’t control. And rather than mourn, and cry and throw myself into hysterics, I accepted the opportunity as contraction and release. Nothing will ever replace my grandmother, but now that she’s my guardian angel, I have no doubts at the wonderful things to come in my future.

And so, I write this to say that when times are tough in your head and heart, believe and trust that whatever darkness and disappointments you are going through, you will survive.

Remember the principles of contraction and release, of riding the bike backwards. The journey is never a detour; it’s just a way to build up your momentum and strength for the road that lies ahead.

Trials and tribulations—not getting what we want when we want it, saying goodbye on terms we can’t control. Each of these is the universes way of humoring us, of helping us grow and allowing us to reframe the past from a place of gratitude for our present and our future.

So brace yourself when the road gets bumpy, strap on that helmet, and prepare to pedal backwards for something greater is sure to come. Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.

And don’t ever forget, you deserve all that you want in this world! Sometimes you’ll get it through your own mastery and hard work, other times you’ll get it when you least expect it and are forced to let go.

Photo by Damian Gadal

About Jaclyn Mullen

Jaclyn Mullen is a social media marketer, philanthropist and strategic connector. She is currently developing an e-book & motivational community, Startups and Stilettos™, which helps women “dig their heels in” and breakthrough personal and professional plateaus to obtain lives and careers they truly desire.

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  • This came at the right time.  I have been feeling down because I feel that I have to constantly work harder than everyone else to achieve anything.  Usually what I want, doesn’t come to be.  Thank you for giving me the extra push to keep moving forward.

  • This pasage: Trials and tribulations—not getting what we want when we want it, saying goodbye on terms we can’t control. Each of these is the universes way of humoring us, of helping us grow and allowing us to reframe the past from a place of gratitude for our present and our future.” might be one of the most impactful passage I’ve come across in a long time.”

    I am sure you will get lots of “I needed this today” type comments. Thank you so much.

  • Clet77

    LOL – yes, this is definitely one of those “I was supposed to see this today” kind of experiences. I am smack dab in the middle of it. And I’ve been experiencing the doubt and backsliding for a couple of months now. Yet lately, there is a part of me that keeps saying – be patient, your new life is coming. Good days, bad days. But I keep moving forward. Thank you Jaclyn for your insigh, honesty … and wonderful writing !! My Goodness that was amazing !

  • Linnaeab


    Your witing is so beautiful. It reads like a short story from a literary artist. Thank you … not only for sharing your experience so simply that is touches each of us, waiting to be drawn from our memories when we experience something similar … but also for swaddling the story in a cloak of naturally flowing expression.


  • Laura

    Good days, Bad days, they are all one and the same. It is our perception of them that makes it so. Laura

    It is hard though, when I am having a Bad day, I think the universe must have a great sense of humour, and then I try to lighten up on myself.

  • Since this post was written, I have also lost my grandfather. He couldn’t go on after 66 years of marriage to my grandmother. I have to say, there is a satisfaction in seeing and feeling an obstacle and overcoming it! Press on everyone, press on. Build up that life stamina and endurance so you can manage even more dreams and blessings which will be sent your way when you can handle their energy!

  • Keegan

    This describes, very clearly, what some survivors of childhood abuse go through. Recover a memory during the backward pedaling before finally shooting forward into the present after recovering another piece of yourself. The pattern repeats again and again, each time shortening in time as more pieces are reincorporated… pieces which have been lost to pain from the past. These recovered pieces serve as a stronger and stronger base  making it easier to recover memories which are subsequently able to be put in proper perspective. Going backward is not easy but may be the only option.

    Thank you for writing about it so well.

  • I’m so glad that resonated with you Neerja. And the truth is, we go through a certain set of trials and think we’ve made it in “the clear” only to have additional ones show up. Sometimes we just have to hang in there, feel the feelings, and let the sun make it’s way through the clouds. Blessings and good luck to you!

  • Dcfmella, I can realte! I used to feel that way in highschool especially. Rather than looking at everyone else, take a quick inventory of 5 things you feel grateful for. And remember, there are people in a worse position than us. That family scraping by and sleeping in one room, the kid who’s being bullied for no reason by their peers and is so hurt. Whenever I’ve done this exercise and changed the lense on my life, all of the sudden, magic happens! You can do it. Have a great day.

  • Laura, I couldn’t agree more! Life is life, each day we have a chance to breathe and be here and make a difference. Sometimes, on good and bad days, we just need to laugh. Thank you for your thoughts.

  • Linnaeab, your kind words have melted my heart! I love writing and I am glad you appreciate the approach. I write songs, I write stories, I have a love affair with words! Enjoy this beautiful day and have a stellar weekend.

  • Clett77, We never know how long our tough times may last. I’ve learned that they help us clear out old blockages and dead weight that we totally forgot we were even carrying. Continue to shed any sad feelings or discomfort. It’s all a spiritual cleansing. Since I wrote this article, my grandfather also passed away. That made for two deaths in 3 weeks and my grandparents were my idols! Patience provides so hang in there and thank you for your kind words. I’m glad I could help.

  • Iboiago

    I read all of your article, but this one touched me the most. I think mostly because I’ve been on that backward bike ride for what seems forever! This week I took 3 sick days off work; thinking I needed the mental break of things gone awry at work and ended up in a solo pity party lamenting ALL the things gone wrong the last few years. Time to get into that sling shot and propel myself forward! Thank you!

  • Sometimes the backwards bicycle means we need to make some changes! Listening to your body and taking time off from work is a great way to recharge. We also need to make sure and protect our aura with positive thoughts and thinking. Where I once was skeptical about this, now I am not. Put on some music that makes you happy, eat your favorite food, start thinking consciously about putting the inner critic on mute! And since you’re in the sling shot, ready…..set…..go! : ) Fly high.

  • Thank you Keegan for your input! Well said.

  • Brilliant. Just what I needed to hear right now … 🙂 

  • Thank you Andy. Music to my ears and it sounds like you feel the same.

  • Exactly the same for me.  2012 has been a rough one so far but I know it’s just a transition period and magic will come from it – just wish it would happen sooner rather than later 😉  Thanks Jaclyn you hit the nail on the head – wonderful writing x

  • I’m so sorry for your losses.  That’s so tough to lose loved ones within such a short time. <3

  • Sharada

    Thank you for this article Jaclyn. If I have to consider the backward pedaling, I have been doing it for some 15 years now having undergone abuse, bullying and harassment since childhood right through college and into my first two workplaces. That I survived with a sense of humour intact and a will to be an achiever and do my bit to contribute to the world surprises me; how strong can a being’s spirit be?

    Maybe 15 years of contraction means a colossal release ahead. I can only look forward to better days. And I have to agree with Keegan and Neerja’s comments. Every belittling and shattering experience has only widened my base and increased my sense of awareness about myself as well as about the world around me.

  • sweetborigirl

    This words come to me in perfect timing, or more than likely we all go through this and that’s why it feels like that to me. I love reading the posts in this site, they are always so inspiring, they always make me feel and think more positive. Thanks Jaclyn for your post. I really like it. The contraction and release in a sling shot thing made see things in a different perspective, in a better perspective I would say. I will always remember that.

  • This reverse-into-forward motion reminds me of those toy cars that one would scoot backward, let go and they would propel forward. Theirs was a simple construct of a coil spring that accumulated tension when wound, like a clock spring, then quickly expended energy. Thus it is with us, I suppose.

    Like those cars we are endowed with a “compression limit” that eventually stops our rearward progress and “refuses to take it any more.” I am sure we each have a different set point for that. Some allege five years, maybe ten, maybe fifteen. Some of us are still in that backward scoot. Mine has been eight years now. Loss after loss can beat us down, rust that spring and tend to make us catch in mid-forward thrust, thinking that is all we have. It’s happened to me. Is happening. At this point it is encouraging to hear others share how their springs worked. I see none will without proper maintenance while in that backward draw. The patience and persistence of a strong belief system or discipline keeps us lubricated, ready to lunge forward in realization of dreams held during these trials. Not a good time to succumb to rust.

    Thanks for sharing your evidence of this. It is said “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” From this we can also say, “Clear the catapult, I’m about to launch!”

  • Sharada, I can understand that particular life instances can paralyze us and plague us. I remember feeling as though a black cloud was following me at one point on my life and the way I got rid of it personally was through learning to really listen to my instinct, not taking jobs I didn’t want, avoiding people who brought me down and learning to control my reactions to situations. I also worked on building up my endorphins and personal and physical strength through exercise while journaling and establishing concrete, clear goals for myself. These actions have taken what once felt like a perpetual back cloud and moved it to an occasional storm now and then. You are a survivor, looking forward is the best revenge and plan of attack : ) Much love and light to you!

  • Thank you Alannah Rose! In the end, I got to be there with them both as they each took their last breaths. I miss them but not many people get a chance to say goodbye the way I did. I just hope we all remember that we won’t always be afforded goodbyes so we should tell those we love how much they mean to us often!

  • curlygrl

    Thanks for such a great article.  It’s comforting to know that other people have these experiences too.

  • Claudia Pinedo

    My granny passed away in a very crucial moment of my life and with her leaving this world taught me everything about loss and loosing the really important rather than feeling a looser all the time. Definitely life gives you all the answers you need when you’re ready. So honored to read your story and shared it here. Hugs. 

  • Hi Jaclyn, thank you for a great article. It reminds me of the Dan Millman passage – “When we feel stuck, going nowhere – even starting to
    slip backward – we may actually be backing up to get a running start.” Experience and wisdom serves to teach us that such moments are our greatest opportunity to transcend any limitation we thought possible. The universe always has a greater and better plan! – Best wishes

  • “And so, I write this to say that when times are tough in your head and heart, believe and trust that whatever darkness and disappointments you are going through, you will survive.”…awesome!!! This is SO hard to keep in persepctive during those dark times..

  • JP Alcala

    Thanks for sharing. It’s exactly my situation right now.

  • Srlacy

    Just wanted to say that I am a new reader, and this post had some very perfect timing for me.  Thank you.  

  • Deedee

    I finished school almost 8 months ago and I’m still unemployed. The guy I thought I’d spend my life with left me around the same time. Some of those I held dearest have shut me out of their lives and I maybe facing eviction in a couple of weeks….. I can only imagine how far ahead the universe is going to fling me 🙂 Thanks for writing this.

  • Deedee, I went through a heart wrenching breakup and job transition at the same time so I know how you may be feeling right now. The great news is you seem to have a positive outlook and that’s all it ever takes to turn things around! One of the books that gave me some hope and kept me moving was Napolean Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich.” Contrary to what the title represents, it’s not a get rich quick scheme. More so, it’s about dedication, commitment and the desire to never give up! Be protective of your aura and energy output, remain grateful for what you do have, get active with your schools alumni group and perhaps even try to utilize Linkedin for job opportunities. Where there is a will there is a way and it sounds like you have a will! Enjoy the journey forward.

  • First time I heard that Tony and I love it! Really appreciate you sharing.

  • Hitman316

    Your post comes at the right time for me. Since last fall, I’ve been planning for an important trip this summer that means a lot to me. But now I’m faced with the possibility that this trip might not happen – and the outcome doesn’t even depend on me.
    As you said, it’s difficult for us sometimes when things don’t go as planned. We have this expectation in our head which doesn’t pan out and bam! We’re left dissapointed.
    I’m currently questioning my decision for even trying to make this trip even though I cannot control the result. It’s human nature to doubt ourselves even when our heart is 100% sure that this is what we want to do. Ask even the most successful people and I’m sure they will tell you that at many points in their lives they experienced doubt.
    What we need to accept is that life is uncertain and, whatever decision we make, we cannot always control the outcome. But if we simply follow our heart, we must believe that the outcome will always be for our benefit. Easier said than done, I know.

  • Liz

    Wonderful insight. Beautiful story.  Thank you.

  • Hitman316, wow! Breathtaking words: What we need to accept is that life is uncertain and, whatever decision
    we make, we cannot always control the outcome. But if we simply follow
    our heart, we must believe that the outcome will always be for our

  • Hinabawa

    Dear Jaclyn,
    A beautiful story, and a lot of truth. Life is always testing us.Your story is an eye opener.I am also going thru a turmoil these days, and keep hoping for things to smooth out in the near future.Sometimes we are powered by the stress that we are unable to see what may come around the corner.Just what I wanted to read today.Thank you for sharing.May you get everything you are looking for.

  • Thankyou for this, for me too – it’s perfect timing to read it. Tears are welling for it’s good to know this jumble of emotions I’m feeling aren’t just for me – I’m not alone 🙂

  • Tinarose29

    this is exactly how I feel my life is at the moment, one minute I’m up the next I’m really down beacuse I am not getting what I want but phew what a relief to know that its ok to cry in the shower, I thought I was losing my mind lol. Cant wait for the bolt, only heaven knows that I NEED it.

    Thank you x

  • I had a really bad day…can’t stop the anxiety and the tears of pending divorce…my husband has always had a”Standing joke” that he is always right and he always wins. I have so much confidence in every area of my life except this one…..tears keep coming and the sadness seems to never go away…read your post and felt that this is what I needed to hear today…so I will let the tears fall, and know that God has a plan..and the best is yet to come..Thanks for sharing.. 

  • Barb Mick

    I needed this yesterday, today, and tomorrow <3

  • kats

    “And don’t ever forget, you deserve all that you want in this world!”

    Thank you! Right now, I just came from a meeting that basically told me that they cannot promise me a relocation. This isn’t the first time I heard this but it doesn’t fail to break my heart each time this happens (since I badly want to move to this place). I actually just went into a mindset of “why am I forcing this? what if this isn’t really for me even if I badly want it? what if i should want something else?”. Reading this, I believe I’m also peddling backwards right now so I’ll have to let go and believe that God has something really, really awesome for me.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • I’ve had this email saved in my inbox, unread. I don’t read all “Tiny Buddha” articles because of time but I kept this one because the title so grabbed me. This year I’ve had two big disappointments. One was loosing a relationship with a guy I really cared about and wanted in my life but feelings weren’t exactly mutual. The other was getting my first B in college. Maybe those don’t sound that bad but they really have rocked my world.

    Now I’m really thankful the guy set me free 🙂 Except he’s all ready tried to come back into my life once again. Why do they always try that!? I declined 😉 You took me for granted once, I’ll be damned if I let you do it again.

    Getting a “B” for me in school has been so tough. Especially when I felt I put “A” effort into the class, albeit a very difficult chemistry class. I had a running streak going of 8 semesters of A’s. I guess it’s difficult because it made me feel less. All ready I see the beauty of my “B”. My head was getting a little hot and conceited with all those A’s. A “B” that you worked hard for, it’s really humbling.


  • KathyLynn

    Your yoga teacher’s metaphor  your insight really resonate with me; however, your piece would have been so much more meaningful and easier to relate to had you used an actual personal experience.  You alluded to an experience, but did not describe it, leaving the piece feeling incomplete.  I look forward to reading more of your work.     

  • thank you for sharing.  2010 was crap, 2011 was the best ever and I go so much and everything I went through in 2010 suddenly made sense to me.  Now since Jan 20, I feel like I cant get a win.  I think I need to quit my job to really find the time to go after what I really want to do, but am unsure.  I guess I’m really waiting for that kick.  I so want to start going forward again.  I enjoyed it so much last year….ugh

  • Jesseeekuh

    Beautiful! I will wait for my release! Until then, I will accept the gifts of sadness and anxieties and learn!

  • Thank you for sharing so deeply of yourself Jaclyn. Your beautiful awareness of who you are and how you’re meant to serve in this world SHINES through – even when your mind doesn’t fully see what the spirit already knows. 

    Love you m’dear and am so looking forward to connecting more as we change the world!

  • ruby

    wow, talk about perfect timing, as in right this exact moment. <3 thank you

  • Grateful

    Thank You.

  • Helen

    Spot on. I have just been through a riding-the-bicycle-backwards scenario in my career, but it was necessary for closure on something that happened two years ago. I am feeling my way through a transition, but I am more positive about moving forward, having temporarily gone backwards to answer some unanswered questions in my head. I trust in the process that I am going through and know that it will ultimately work out.

  • Jaclyn Mullen

    Hi KathyLynn, I appreciate your feedback! I wanted the piece to be open to people with all different scenarios, meaning I didn’t want my experience to pigeon hole other people’s! A lot has happened since I wrote this and I hope to contribute another piece to TinyBuddha soon.

  • Jaclyn Mullen

    Sometimes the transitions are detours OR sometimes, they shortcuts to the path we are meant to be on! Either way, try to enjoy the journey. Life is so short and I have really started to approach each day as if it were my last just in case it is! : )

  • Jaclyn Mullen

    Hi Brenda, I know some time has past since I wrote this article. Just checking in to see how you are doing these days!

  • K

    Reading this made me cried, like extremely cried and my heart hurts. It’s like you are speaking to me and the pain I am feeling inside and it helps to know that I will survive this. Thank you for writing such a wonderful article.

  • reba williams


  • Reading Gal

    I’ve been moving backwards for such a long time, that if I ever get shot forward, I will have serious whiplash!

  • tia

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  • Tim Ernst

    So many people think it’s the universe, the universe. This is simply false. It’s not the universe at all. What on earth can the universe do for you anyway? It’s God and only God that is in control not the universe, wake up people can stop drinking your cool-aid living in the land of OZ. Get Jesus, and you’ll do just fine.

  • anuj

    Thanks jaclyn for the powerful writing. It’s so mysterious that we face a situation n read something very similar to it. N it’s sometimes quite painful to have trusted something to see it doesn’t go as planned. I feel Hope vs letting go as a choice is always a question unanswered. Thanks for being there as such writings can create a great impact on the mind.

  • Christopher Louis Palmeri-Ramo

    ive been struggling so much this last year after progressing spiritually to all things, after some intense tramatic events, i started to meditate, coming to understand a new path into life. i found myself in a state that is difficult to describe, but all i know it was the most beautiful experience i could ever imagine. all my prayers were answered, and i found myself somewhere beautiful, it was as though i had died and gone to heaven, it was as though i had transended this world, this body. everything around me glowed, and i felt myself physically and mentally connected to the very fabric of the universe. everything i found myself being involved in always felt like the perfect place and time to be, the people or spirits i would interact with were glowing in radiance, i was fully aware of everything going on around me, and it was like watching god work through everything, i felt safe, and truly at peace and at home in the heart, but after some time, i felt some kind of energy vibration while sitting in meditation rip me from this higher state of being, i noticed a drastic shift downwards, it felt as though being struck by a brick wall, i noticed my body start to get up, but it wasnt as though i was in control of it. i noticed my voice start to speak, but also i didnt feel in control. this freaked me out allot, and i felt myself try to take back control. it was at this point i felt myself fall, and feel deep physical and spiritual pain right down to my bones. it felt like all warmth i was experiencing had left, and all i could feel was this cold, burning chill run up and down my entire body. my body feels week, i feel stuck in some strange dark dimension. i feel like everything is working backwards. i feel distressed in everything. i just want to know how to live again, let go again, but do not know how because so much feels alien to me, and i try to experiment with ways to get out of this, but i find myself messing up, i find others getting pissed at me, and idk why, because i myself do not even know what i am doing at times, or what my thoughts are. its almost like im here, but not. its like i have this body, i must do something, i get into situations to try and live, relate, but its like being in this deep dark fog, not able to see, or feel, relate to any of it, or anyone. like i said, i feel alien to the ways of life. i want to be peaceful, i love, but i feel like i do not know how to trust my thoughts, feelings. i feel like i react blindly. i feel like life is going too fast, and idk how to feel, or what i want. i mean i know what i want, but i feel spiritually lost. i know the old way i saw life is false, but im not able to see it either from the deeper connection i had experienced. all i know is that im so out of it, that everything scares me so much. i feel uncomfortable in social situations, and even around my family. ive tried to go back into hobbies, anything, but everything feels so wrong, i feel like i am cursed or something. i want to die, but im scared to, but im scared to live as well. i feel like something is wrong with me if i do not feel the pain others feel, or can not relate. i want to be the light i should be, but feel ive lost it. i hate myself alot, because before this i was so in the moment and present, and able to bring the light and peace of mind to others because all i could see was the light, but now i feel blind. i know the light is there, but iv’e lost my way so much, and i constantly feel like i am spiritually falling into darkness rather than falling into the light.