Don’t Keep Looking in the Rear Vision Mirror! You’re not going that way.

Car mirror reflection

By: Nanette Fairley
July 21, 2021


Sometimes when something bad happens to us it can be really hard to move on.  It can be hard to get out of the past and into the present, let alone create a new vision for the future.  And that is OK for a while, but can begin to impact your present negatively.

Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s often spend a lot of time in the past, because the nature of the disease robs their present and certainly their future.  Small children necessarily live in the here and now, as they don’t yet have a past.  Some adults live in the future, hoping something good will happen one day, but perhaps not taking the actions today, that are needed to make tomorrow better.  An example of this is not saving for retirement perhaps.  As healthy adults, we have a choice how much time we will spend in the past, the present and the future.  What will your split be?

When we are hurting, whether it be from something like a forced early retirement or, worse, the death of a spouse, focusing on the present and planning for the future, can be a hard ask.  As mentioned above, spending a lot of time thinking about the past is OK at the beginning and only you can decide how long you will spend there.  We all have great memories of the past – of family, of travel or career achievements.  There are real benefits reliving our past:

  • we won’t make the same mistakes again
  • we experience the positivity of the time through reliving it through photos, old journals and reminiscing with friends and family

Of course, there is nothing wrong with going there but how much time will you spend there?  And do need to avoid wasting precious happiness dwelling in ‘coulda’, ‘shoulda’, ‘woulda’, scenarios from the past?

Then there is the opposite scenario, dreaming too much of the future and missing the joy of today.  In the last year or two of my full-time employment, I was spending a lot of time planning for leaving work and all the things I would do.  Looking back, that did detract from the present as everything was about what was coming next.

At some point you might like to get intentional about deciding how much of your mental energy you’re going to spend in the past, how much in the present and how much planning your future?  Often we find that future that has to change due to whatever has happened and while that can be terribly hard, is also necessary.

There are lots of longevity calculators out there.  You might like to try this one from the US government.  When I completed it as I wrote this piece, it suggested I have 31.2 years to live.  While that might seem a long time – we actually have no clue what might happen next.  So balancing where we spend our time can help us reconcile that life is not infinite and help us live it more intentionally.

How much time will you spend in the past, the present and the future to bring the happiness and contentment you deserve?

#lookingforward  #livenow  #choosehapiness  #whatnextology  #thirdage