Living with a Rear View Mirror

I was driving home earlier today in the car and a young man on a bike came with two paint coats of my offside rear corner. I had seen him behind me a few minutes beforehand and he was a fair distance going at my speed. Then whoosh!

Slightly faster than the speed of light he came along my side and weaved and wandered past me — then in and out of the traffic ahead of me. Horns tooted. Shouts were heard. Hands were thrust in the air in anger. Awesome driving or sheer stupidity? You work it out.

But it got me to thinking about why we have a rearview mirror in the car. “Duh, obviously” you say. The usual answer is to tell you about people coming behind you. Seems reasonable.

But here’s another viewpoint (pun intended). The rearview mirror shows you where you were — but not where you are headed. Do you need to know where you were?

So, it crossed my mind that life is all about rearview mirrors. Deep huh?

I believe that optimistic people look through the front windscreen — while pessimists are constantly checking their rearview mirror. They are determined to look back to get their bearings for today and tomorrow. Scared to make the same mistakes again and not confident enough to ignore their past to seek new adventures.

Being assured about your next move (job, house, marriage, etc) is critical and a glance back here and there will always be valuable. But you don’t live in the past. Think back to situations from yesterday and how you reacted — or how it turned out. Prior knowledge can be useful. But the trick is to drop into the past, get the information (call it research if you will), then get moving forwards again immediately.

Unfortunately, many people still live in the past.

Life moves forwards not backwards. Things you did yesterday are gone. You can’t get that part of your life back again, ever. Therefore, why spend time going over and over things in the past. Better to spend your time thinking about today and planning for tomorrow.

Having said that, I must confess that occasionally I do think about what might have been in my own past. For example, even at this age, I still believe that my football team in Scotland will call me up to play for them. I see no reason to drop the idea. Even big boys can have dreams. Right?

Have you ever said this? — “I remember years ago we tried a new system in the office, and everyone believed it would definitely work. It didn’t.”

Obviously in that example some knowledge from the past makes a huge difference. But you don’t go back and re-live that experience. You bring the information forward to today, use it, but then create a new system using data from today, not yesterday. Learn from the past but don’t hang around.

Many people have memories from the past that they would like to forget. We all have them. And while it can be difficult to completely erase them from our mind, we must try hard to live in the present. Sometimes in moments when we are alone or our mind wanders back and makes us sad, or angry, or feeling down. Understandable. However, every effort must be made to push them to the side and get on with life today.

Spending more than an instant looking in your rearview mirror will send you hurtling into oncoming objects that you didn’t see because you’ve taken your eye off the road — and the same can be said of spending too much time focusing on the past in your life instead of looking where you are going in the present.

Wake up every morning and ask what you are going to do Today, not what you are going to do Yesterday. See how silly that sounds?

Don’t look back and ask, Why?

Look ahead and ask, Why not?

Neil Patel

However, don’t throw away the rearview mirror in your car. You will need it — even if only to see fellow travelers bearing down on you at the speed of sound. Whoosh and they’ve gone.





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