I believe in looking forward to the future rather than dwelling on the past. Experience has taught me that while sometimes it seems that life just won’t go on, we must focus on how to move forward and deal with our problems rather than imagining how things could have been different.
In some ways, this philosophy of mine has arisen from tragedy.What better way to gain perspective on life than experiencing death? However, intensely difficult episodes have also taught me strategies for coping with issues that seem relatively minor in comparison. This is easy to understand by comparing two such events. One experience helped me learn the importance of looking ahead, while the other was a chance for me to practice doing so.
First, the intense life experience: At the age of 16, three of my close relatives died over a ten day period from three separate causes. Death is perhaps the ultimate example for explaining this point because, obviously, it is completely irreversible, and in these cases, was unpreventable. In the grieving process, I found the most important step to be accepting what had happened and realistically facing the facts. There was nothing I could have done to stop what happened and there was nothing I could do to change it.
By not looking back, the only direction to move was forward. I asked myself what I could next to move on and eventually return to my every-day life. I’m not a particularly spiritual person, but I did know my relatives well and knew they had high expectations for me that did not include moping in self-sorrow for years. Surely I’m not suggesting that we should forget those that we’ve lost. Instead, over the years I’ve used their memories as motivation and inspiration.
Now to put this philosophy to work in a less intense situation, consider something I experienced last spring. During finals week, I woke up early one morning to finish two lengthy essays I had been working on. When I turned on my laptop, I found that my hard drive had crashed and erased not only my essays for finals, but also every single document, picture, song, and memory from the past three years of my life.
As I left the repair shop later that day, a friend of mine asked me why I didn’t seem that upset and was handling the incident so well. I told him that those files were gone now and nothing I did was going to change that. The only thing left to do was figure out my next move and get back to work. I was able to compare what had happened to earlier life events, and when put in perspective, the loss was relatively minor. Much like in the previous situation, I would gain nothing from dwelling in the past; only from looking forward and moving on.
It is important to look back on the past and gain knowledge from our experiences. However, when we dwell on what we cannot change and get stuck in the past, we aren’t helping ourselves but instead impeding our own growth. When faced with adversity, we should not ask ourselves what we could have done differently in the past, but instead what we must now do in the future.