Growth stocks are the holy grail of investing. But great investing opportunities are not handed to you on a platter, writes The Motley Fool.

The ASX is off to a flying start in 2012, rising over 4 per cent in the first few weeks of the new year.

It’s a welcome relief to battle-weary sharemarket investors. Since the market peaked pre-GFC, it is down 35 per cent. It’s likely to take many years to regain those heights.

Yet investing is not about looking backwards. Here at The Motley Fool, we call it the rowboat syndrome.

Human nature being what it is, we look backwards at what has recently happened in the sharemarket and presume that state of affairs will go on well into the future.

Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner says too many people are investing through the rear-view mirror. Jack Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group, calls it the rowboat syndrome…

“You are always looking back where you know where you’ve been but have no idea where you are going.”

We like to know where we’re going in the future. Look forward, dear Fools, for the future is where the money is to be made.

Do you think BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP) is looking backwards when it commits billions of dollars to expanding its mining operations?

Do you think Telstra Corporation (ASX: TLS) looks back at its declining fixed line business, or does it look forward to a world where mobile devices and cloud computing are only going to play a bigger part in our lives?

And as investors, should we look back at what the market has done since the GFC, or should we look forward to where it will be 5, 10 or even 20 years down the road?

We’re optimists, dear Fools. But we are  also realists.

We know the global economy has its challenges. Greece may yet default. The euro may yet die. The nascent U.S. economic recovery may falter. Local unemployment may continue to rise, especially as companies like Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ASX: ANZ) and Qantas Airways (ASX: QAN) slash jobs.

But we’ve muddled through before, and we’ll muddle through again. A Motley Fool reader recently reminded us that he survived through mortgage rates of 17 per cent in the 1980s. Humans are survivors. We are innovators. We will be stronger.

Turn our rowboat around. Go canoeing. Paddle forward, Foolish friends.

With our eyes firmly fixed on the windscreen and the road ahead, we see plenty of great investing opportunities. Sure, we’re unlikely to discover the Maverick Drilling and Exploration (ASX: MAD) – a stock that’s soared an amazing 231 per cent since we highlighted it a few weeks ago – but that doesn’t stop us looking.

Unloved, overlooked growth companies is where we find most opportunities.

Seymour Whyte (ASX: SWL) is one such example. It’s an infrastructure development company that operates in Queensland and New South Wales. Recent natural disasters have fattened up its order book. We think it’s an excellent long-term play on infrastructure and mining, all at an attractive price. Although we don’t rate it as a buy, it is a company firmly on our radar.

Little World Beverages (ASX: LWB) is another on our radar, as is carsales.com (ASX: CRZ), a company that recently reported sales growth of 22 per cent.

Who said growth was hard to come by? You’ve just got to look in the right places.

Attention: If you are looking for ASX investing ideas, look no further than “The Motley Fool’s Top Stock for 2012.” In this free report, Motley Fool Investment Analyst Dean Morel names his top pick for 2012…and beyond. Click here now to find out the name of this small but growing telecommunications company. But hurry – the report is free for only a limited period of time.

Of the companies mentioned above, Motley Fool General Manager Bruce Jackson has an interest in BHP, TLS, ANZ and MAD. The Motley Fool’s purpose is to educate, amuse and enrich investors. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Click here to be enlightened by The Motley Fool’s disclosure policy.

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