Looking Back To Move Forward

Returning home is always a bittersweet experience. Anyone who has ever uprooted their life will understand this — especially if their decision to ‘leave’ was more truthfully a case of needing to ‘escape’.

I spent the first 26 years of my life in the one place (Brisbane). Then, over a blur of three years, I crossed the ocean to Tonga and state lines to Sydney and Melbourne. Its been a ride and I still struggle to make sense of it all.

But — with eight years worth of journals, I can recall everything. Every thought, decision, conversation and situation. Everystep of the way.

I can’t recommend journaling enough. It allows us to understand our current experiences and shape the narrative of our lives. However, spending too much time in the past can definitely be problematic. Making things more bitter than sweet.

Regardless if you dust off old journals like myself, scroll through Facebook memories, dig deep into your inbox or just lay awake remunerating, it’s important we only revisit the past in a way that serves us moving forward. Here are a few ways looking back can be helpful:

Recognising what we’ve failed learn 

A lesson is a mistake we’ve stopped repeating. Looking back can help us to highlight our habitual hiccups. Hopefully encouraging us to either take them more seriously or approach them differently.

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know” – Pema Chödrön

Appreciating where we’ve been

It’s easy to feel hard done by life. For the most part, it is an uphill journey. But taking a moment to rest and reflect allows us to appreciate the view — all the things we’ve been blessed by. The roses in our wake. The reasons we have to be grateful.

Remembering what we’re capable of

We weather many storms in our lifetimes. As we grow stronger with each passing season we can forget how ‘weak’ we once were — we can unintentionally belittle our own victories. Revisiting our past struggles can remind us that the forces we’re currently facing — be it doubt in ourselves, uncertainty about the future or something else — are familiar. And that once again, we can stand strong and rise above.

Understanding our limitations

Hindsight is often a hard slap waiting for us to turn around. I often berate myself for the decisions I’ve made — which is why my journals are often a struggle to read. But recently, I’ve welcomed the opportunity to exercise some self-compassion. Remembering there’s a difference between the best decision and the best of the decisions we can make. We’re always limited by knowledge we don’t have and opportunities not yet available to us. But the right approach can turn hindsight into a helping hand that points out our blindspots and throws us some clues.

“Forgive yourself for not having the foresight to know what now seems so obvious in hindsight.” -Judy Belmont

I’ll end on something I’ve been pondering following a conversation with a close friend. It’s that, despite the amount of time we spend in our heads — going between the future and the past — life only takes place moment-to-moment in the present. And there’s much to experience and learn here.

We spoke about people who think about life abstractly. Going through mental checklists and how they’re ticking the many ‘conditions’ of being happy — without showing a single smile. Sure, sacrifices have their place as the crop of tomorrow is in the seeds of today. But we should never loose touch with how we currently feel. Because when things seem overly complex, the sign we need — the way forward — might be as simple as a smile.

Tags : personal growth

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