Henry David Thoreau said, “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” The past is gone. It’s over. You can’t do anything to change it. Ignore it and move on. Sounds like good advice, doesn’t it? I’m not so sure it is. Not completely. Our lives are filled with the monotony of daily living (often forgotten) as well as defining events (rarely forgotten) that secures our present and can set the path for the future.
As I see it, looking back only becomes problematic if we hold on to it so tight that it affects the present and future in a negative way. The tragedy or tragedies or the pressures of living can weigh us down or crush us to the point of near destruction. They/it fills every moment of our waking days and torments our dreams when we’re asleep. We can’t let go. We can’t forget. And we find ourselves existing in a fog.
So, what’s the alternative?
For starters, we can look at it in a different way. We can choose to look back–not to cling to the past–but to see how far we’ve come, the distance traveled, the amount of growth gained. Children don’t feel themselves growing, but just stand them against a wall, measure their height, and watch the smile on their faces when they see how much growth they’ve attained since the last time they were measured.
So it is with personal growth. We can’t be unaffected by the events in our lives, but we can change how we look at them. The event holding us back becomes a unit of measure, a yardstick, if you will, to show us where we were and how far we’ve come. It may only be one step away, but we gained a step. Where there was once a closed door, maybe now we’ve pushed the door open. Baby steps. Small things that mark the distance gained. A quarter of an inch of growth isn’t much, but for a child, it’s a mile. They stand taller and grin larger.
As an author who is approaching the third anniversary of the publication of my first novel, I can look back and reflect on how far I’ve come. Since the moment I pushed submit and nearly tossed my cookies doing so, I’ve accomplished quite a lot. Have I reached all my goals? No. Is it hard work getting out there–building a fanbase, an author platform, be active on social media and still find time to write? You betcha. And on any given day, I’m far from successful. I’m still learning. But I’ve come a long way from where I started.
And that’s the whole point. It’s the start of a new year. Let’s look back, assess, and then plan for the coming year. We should keep moving forward, unwilling to stay where we started. Being chained to the starting gate isn’t moving forward. It’s not living. If we insist on staying there, hugging what’s familiar, we stop living and time marches on without us. Opportunities that were meant for us go to someone else.
So, let’s be bold now. Let’s strike while the iron is hot. Let’s NOT give away our opportunities. Keep writing. Let’s learn something new about our craft each day. Cultivate positive, supportive friendships where we live AND online. Don’t be afraid to step out into the unknown.
2015 will be over before we know it and it will be time to look back, assess, plan, and move forward. How well we do that at the beginning of 2016 depends on what we do now, with the rest of the year.