Moving Forward by Looking Back

In running there’s a phrase that coaches repeat to their runners: “Don’t look backward, that’s not where you are going.” The idea is that looking backward slows down your forward progress, ergo you do not want to be looking behind you. This phrase is absolutely carried over into everyday life. It seems like everyone has a unique way of telling you not to look back:

“Don’t worry about the past, think about the future.”

“You can’t have a better tomorrow if you’re thinking about yesterday.”

“Hanging on to the past prevents future attachments.”

You get the idea. However lately I’m feeling that all of these quotes could be wrongly interpreted. For me, I super bought into this idea. Forgetting my past seemed like a super attractive idea as it is full of trips to therapists’ offices, psychiatrists’ chairs, and pharmacies to get the pills that I hated to take. Not to mention all the trauma that sparked those visits that had occurred in the previous year. I buried a lot of that deep down and tried to imagine a better life for myself. I had a wonderful new boyfriend who is hands down the most unbelievably wonderful man on the planet, I moved to a new city, I got a cat, I graduated college. Everything in the present was working out, so why even remotely think of the past.

And then, a few days ago, I got my answer. I found that every time I tried to bury something from my past that it came back a lot stronger and a lot bolder than before. Ignoring my problems hardly made a dent in solving them. So if I think about my issues does that mean I won’t be able to move forward? No. Absolutely not. Thinking about and dwelling on are two different modes of thinking about something.

For me, right now I’m doing a lot of looking back. I’m thinking about admitting myself to an out-patient facility to help deal with these issues, but I’m also looking way in the future at my goals and at fulfilling them. I want to run an ultra, I want to be a writer, I want to move to NYC. Plenty of goals that I am wholeheartedly ready to jump into, I just feel that if I don’t allow myself to think about the past and to full process and fall in love with every small thing that got me to where I am, that I won’t move forward at all.

So look back, forward, up or down. It’s not about what you’re looking at, it’s what you’re focusing on.

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