Have you ever noticed how small the rearview mirror is in your car? I noticed this recently, and it got me thinking. Compared to the windshield, the rearview mirror is tiny. Why do you think that is? Maybe, because what’s behind you is not nearly as important as what’s in front of you. It’s the same with our lives. Even though we had to go through a certain experience or take a certain road to get to where we are, our past is not nearly as important as our present and our future.
What I find interesting about the rearview mirror is that you can’t drive forward safely while focusing on it; you’d crash. If you want to navigate forward, you periodically use the rearview mirror to help guide you, but it’s not the focus. You must look forward in order to get to where you want to go. Similarly, if you want to move forward in life (health-wise, in relationships, financially, professionally, etc.) you can’t stay focused on the past. Focusing on the past results in one thing- an eventual “crash”. Focusing on it keeps us from seeing the good that’s in front of us.
All of us are guilty of focusing on the past, at some point or another. To clarify, though, there is nothing wrong with remembering the past. Just as the rearview mirror is meant to help keep you safe, so is the past. Our past experiences are meant to be a learning tool so, just like the rearview mirror, we can navigate forward. The problems occur when we focus on it. This can be in the form of holding grudges, not forgiving, wishing you had made a different choice, and even reliving a positive experience as though it’s no longer part of us. A quick note on this last point. Like I said earlier, remembering is great, but sometimes we can remember something good in the past and long to go back. We want to go back when things were “simpler” or “better”, but again, this keeps us from moving forward to a future full of promise.
Focusing on the past keeps us from experiencing new things. When we don’t pursue new things, we are focusing on the past. Avoiding a relationship because you were hurt before, is focusing on the past. Not trying to improve your health because “it never works” is focusing on the past. Not making amends with a spouse, brother, or neighbor is focusing on the past. We don’t pursue these new opportunities because we don’t want a repeat of a past experience.
The truth is your past does NOT equal your future. Every single day you are the author of your own story, the writer of your own movie. You decide how today will go. No, we can’t control everything in life, just like when we drive we can’t control the weather or traffic. However, we can control where and how we drive. We can control how we think and respond to traffic, or whatever the case may be. You are in the driver’s seat in your life. No matter what may have happened, with every thought and action, you control where you end up. There may be detours, course corrections, and even changes of destination, but at the end of the day you are in the driver’s seat.
You may be asking, “Well, how do I stop focusing on the past?” Let me offer a few suggestions that have helped me. First, sometimes we focus on the past because we have nothing compelling in the future (or at least that’s what we think). We have to have something in the future we are working towards. I have found there is a tremendous amount of satisfaction that comes as we progress toward a specific goal. Whether it’s improving your health, getting started in a new career, or improving your relationship with your children, knowing where you’re going helps keep you focused on the present and the future.
The next thing is to learn. Remember, the rearview mirror is a tool meant to help you, the same is true of the past. Use past experiences to your advantage. If things don’t go your way then ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” Or “How can this make me better?” If things go right then still ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” Use the past to help in course corrections and continual learning.
Another important aspect is to enjoy the ride. If you’re in such a rush to get to your destination you’ll miss out on the beauty on the way there. Everyday live with gratitude in your heart for what’s in front of you. Some people believe that they’ll only be happy when they reach their destination; however, that’s not true. I have discovered for myself that you can be happy while you’re working toward your goals. You can be grateful now for what you’ll accomplish in the future. So enjoy the journey, with all of its twists and turns.
Lastly, I highly recommend Phytotherapi’s Cognitive Therapi. Here’s why: More often than not, focusing on the past has become habitual and has led to chronic stress, anxiety, and/or depression. Cognitive Therapi gives you the tools to recondition your mind so you can let go of the past and refocus on what you really want. I recommend it to anyone wanting to make changes in their life (which is just about anyone).
Remember, your past does not equal your future. You can begin now to shift your focus. You can learn to forgive (others and yourself); you can move forward. Your future is more amazing than you realize. You don’t have to wait for others or your circumstances to change before enjoying the scenery and exploring this great open road called life. You are in the driver’s seat. So, where are you going to go?