Looking back has as much value in terms of benefit and constraints as does looking forward.
It’s very important to know there are benefits to looking back and/or forward. However, spending all your time not living in the present negates your present experience and your present moment in life. Experiencing what is happening now is extremely important. It is the only time that truly exists. Yet a part of this present moment in time is a reflection of what has happened and what you plan/dream/desire to happen.
Looking beyond or behind makes one less or not even aware in the present. Albeit looking backward or forward does offer a perspective, insight, retrospect, and drive. Though it remains not being in the present, when stuck in either state. The present is lost to experience and awareness. So the question becomes why do it? Why do we? And why bother? All the reasons and answers to these questions are personal and still open to personal evaluation.
Looking backward benefits: first and foremost, looking back can provide insight for current actions and choices. And on the flip side, it may also offer awareness for inaction. This insight may assist to either change patterns, help in the process of changing patterns, or even reinforce actions and decisions.
However, when stuck in the past, a person tends to repeat patterns, favorable and limiting. Yet these repeated patterns are not always beneficial.
Why change what works? The answer is not simple. Though the pattern continues to work it may not be as beneficial as it seems. Breathing is a very helpful and necessary pattern to repeat. This is true unless you have another goal. Breathing keeps us alive. But if a person wants to deep dive or climb major mountains, it would be wise to train their breathing to adapt to each of these or other activities. Though activity pattern is valuable, that same pattern/habit may not have value in all intense, circumstances, and activities.
And on the other hand, perpetuating old habits make life sane. Imagine how chaotic life would be if we didn’t have automatic repeat patterns and habits rather than having to learn again and again activities we take for granted. For example, imagine having to learn to Velcro shoes time and again.
When we learn a new activity, we need to learn new skills or adapt old skills for the new activity. Learning to drive, for example, requires both old and new skills. The first time behind the wheel, so many things are unfamiliar. Where do you put your feet? How do you change your foot from gas to brake and how hard to push each. How do you turn the steering wheel to turn a corner? And then there are street signs, like stop signs, speed signs, street names, and do on, to learn. After a while the inexperienced driver becomes more capable and comfortable driving. And dome actions become automatic. A driver sees a stop sign and stops.
Then, when an intersection with a stop sign becomes familiar, you automatically know to stop. Yet, if at a familiar intersection, where the stop sign is removed, a driver who is used to stopping, will stop out of habit. This example points out how a patterned habit, can become a limiting behavior. In this case a once beneficial patterned behavior lost its benefit and needed to be adjusted. This might not be seen as a serious limiting habit, especially since usually a driver will adjust quickly. Yet if the driver stops, out of habit, and the driver behind them is not expecting the car to stop, might cause a collision. Then a simple habit has become a problem.
And another example of looking in the past, is living too much in the past. Relying and reminiscing, as though the past is the present, also limits a person’s current experience. A “remember when…,” “if only I’d…,” or “I just wish I’d…” are all examples of looking in the past. If these thoughts, longings, and wondering are constantly present and the person’s focus, these thoughts and longings take over the present.
These examples, in a simple way, shows how the a person relied on past experience instead of being in the present. You can take a moment to think of experiences in your life where living in the past, where habits were formed interfered in the present.
It is also true, looking back has advantages, including, but not limited to: helping form a plan, reflection on what or what did not work previously, reinforcing connections with others, fun reminiscences, and to create calm. You can find the examples for these instances and others.
Now, looking forward. How many times have you said or heard someone say, “as soon as I…,” “things will be great when…,” “when this or that happens I can finally,” or “if I could just…” when thinking or planning life and activities. Waiting for something to happen can take away from all present experiences, since a person lives waiting for the future thing to finally happen, instead of being present in life.
As well true, we often make plans, set goals, and wait for things to happen. Applying for a new job, look for and buying a new home, and planning a workout schedule, are all ways of looking forward. However, in certain instances, looking forward and making plans, holds some wisdom. It is forming a plan and balancing the plan with current life experiences that is essential.
Life happens now. Waiting for the future to be now means a person is not living now, rather, looking forward and not being and experiencing in the present. When looking back or looking forward, in balance and perspective while still living and being in the present is essential to a healthy functioning life. Be present in life.
As you go through life take an appropriate amount of time and reflection with past experiences and planning for your future, all within a healthy balance to be present in your present life.