Sankofa – spring into future stepping on past  

Few days back, I was reading articles on culture. I came across this phrase ‘Sankofa’. It is a Ghanaian expression; it refers to a mythical bird whose feet are firmly planted forward while its head is turned backwards carrying a precious egg in her beak. It represents the old African adage, “always remember the past for therein lies the future, if forgotten we are destined to repeat it.”

As I reflect on this phrase, I find it so apt across levels: individuals, groups, organizations and even countries. It enables us ask candid questions about our past and chart out the future building on past wisdom.

Let’s begin with individuals, few questions to reflect on our past:

  • What were some of our most cherished moments? These are the times when life seemed to move in a flow. What made them memorable?
  • What were some crucible moments, challenging times – that seemed to have had significant impact?
  • What were some difficult decisions made – where the trade-offs were hard to make? What principles / values guided us in these times?
  • Where did we fail, which were the worst and most difficult to deal with?

As we reflect on these questions, we will be able to unearth some of our deeply held beliefs, attitude, and capabilities that we built through our experiences in the past.

For example, I went through several challenging periods in my life as I was quite poor in thinking ahead and creating back-up options, scenario planning. I am reasonably good at it, but I know I can do better.

Imagine the power of such reflections, how we can leverage them as we chart our journey forward,

  • What beliefs, attitude, and capabilities of mine are still relevant? How will I adapt them to today’s context?
  • What needs to change? How will I change?
  • How will I incorporate these learnings into future?

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