In the modern world our business and personal lives have become inextricably linked. One affects the other and vice versa for good or bad. When was the last time you looked at your past as a way to improve your future?
I learnt the benefits that can be drawn from looking back during my recovery and more recently personal events have turned my mind back to things such as what is our purpose and what do we ultimately leave or want to leave behind after us – otherwise what’s the point? I know it’s a dark subject but I think it’s important that we consider our ‘why’ in more profound terms than merely what we see immediately.
Our future is informed by past events but we do have a choice if we take the time to learn from our past journeys. We can choose a new and often better path. In this month’s series of articles I am going to be looking at the importance of purpose in our lives. Without purpose we are navigating waters with no compass, no sense of direction – especially tricky when the waters are turbulent.
Looking back gives you some perspective
Some people don’t believe that looking back is a productive thing to do whereas I think it is imperative.
Looking back does 2 things. It reminds you of how far you have come and it informs you of how much further you have to go.
Particularly the remembering how far you have come has many positive influences and can dictate how you continue to approach your journey. If we looked back and saw nothing of any note (as I did at the time of crash) that doesn’t spur you on to continuing on in the same vein. It forces you to re-evaluate and alter your course and tactics accordingly and if you are smart about it, it leads to better satisfaction and a more fulfilling experience.
You know the saying, “nostalgia ain’t what it used to be”, well looking back does not have to be a nostalgic exercise. OK – so sometimes that’s fun and sometimes it induces embarrassment. I look at my 80’s power dressing and squirm and shudder – all those padded shoulders and terrible ‘big’ permed hair! We can long for the past but that is not effective retrospection. Self-help gurus will tell you to live in the present moment, but that does not mean ignoring the past.
We should learn from our mistakes not put them in a box and pretend they never happened. Our past has a way of sneaking up on us at the most inappropriate moments- so it is better to shine a light on it and gain clarity.
Learning from the past to inform your future
When we set goals, either in life or in business, we sometimes become so focused on the destination we miss the steps of the journey. If you are forever rushing to an end point, you may miss opportunities along the way. Our past is full of those opportunities- some taken, some ignored, some missed. We can regret or we can learn. I am going to look at regrets in a later article. For now, let’s think about those journeys taken and yet to be enjoyed.
I was a passenger when my life took a terrible turn. I had no control over what happened and sometimes that happens in life. It was not my choice to have my life turned upside down, but how I dealt with it was my choice.
I could choose to give up, bemoan the accident, hand my life over to fate or take the reins and decide on my future. When you are stuck in a hospital bed, simply surviving from one procedure to the next you do a lot of thinking. My life in retrospect was not that satisfying; I was so busy “doing” I had not considered my “Why”, my purpose. After Paddington I had a lot of time to consider my purpose and redefine it.
One decision I made was to stop being a passenger in life. Running your own company, or working for someone else it makes no difference. If you have a purpose you can fulfil that either way. If you have no why, you are simply following somebody else’s purpose, their direction, you are not in the driver’s seat.
When you can see a reason for the journey, then you can enjoy it. When you are connected to a sense of purpose you can trust your instincts if you want to take a diversion, change course, or even take a rest and stop to reflect. That is real control.
We have a short time to make an impact and it is our choice what difference we make in our world. Whether that is at home, work or in a larger society, we choose if we understand our why. Taking some time to reflect on past journeys and decisions helps us decide what we want to do next. Sometimes that throws up things we’d rather not reflect on – and my next article will look at how to handle regrets and past decisions in a positive way.
For now, I know that I needed to look back in order to move forward in a different way, along a different path. I am forever grateful I had the opportunity to change direction.