Or is it?
Is looking back and thinking about our previous actions and thoughts and experiences a good thing? Or is it an exercise in futility since we can’t go back and change or undo the past? Does it provide clarity and the opportunity to learn from a distance? Does looking back allow us some perspective or is it a waste of time and energy and thoughts?
I say: yes and no, good and bad, helpful and hurtful.
At its core, I find that looking back and reflecting on the past is an exercise that everyone should do – to a certain extent. Yes, you can’t “unring a bell”. You can’t hop into a flying Delorean and toss some garbage into Mr. Fusion and head back to undo or redo a moment in your past to change the present.
What can this reflection offer? It can help you see patterns in your life, both good a bad, which can help you in the future. You can use the distance and reflection provides to learn your true motives or wants or needs, again which will be beneficial in the future. You can also see things that maybe didn’t turn out the way you wanted and work to “fix” things going forward.
It can also be somewhat hurtul. You can spend too much time thinking about what you no longer have – whether good or bad – and miss a lot of what is happening to you now. It can be a distraction. It can keep you from moving forward. It can taint your view of the world, of people, of yourself. While doing a bit of this is ok, but to steal a quote from the movie Elizabethtown , “You have five minutes to wallow in the delicious misery: enjoy it, embrace it, discard it… and proceed.”
You have to proceed. It may not be what you want, but the fact remains – and it’s a hard fact to accept at times, I know this firsthand – you can’t change what is already done.
Once you truly understand this, it’s oddly liberating. You can view the past with the proper lens, and not let it overwhelm you. You can never and should never ignore the past, you just have to make sure you engage with it in an appropriate way.
I’m working on doing just this. I need to not focus on what I can’t change, but focus on what I want to change and what will help me be the best me now and moving forward. I need to focus on the lessons the past can offer and for the happiness and fond memories.
I need to remind myself that “Nothing is worth more than this day.” Live for today. Live for what and who is in your life now. Learn from the past, live for today and prepare yourself for the future.