3 ways reflecting on the past restores hope for the future
Life in the rear view
At some point in life, most of us have come across a quote, read an article or engaged in conversations about letting go of the past that went something like: Stop dwelling on what happened yesterday. Don’t think about what’s behind you. Live in the present. Look toward the future.
The advice has truth and makes sense – dwelling on the “shoulda, coulda and woulda” opportunities in life often keeps people stuck in a certain place. Example: a person is still spending a lot of mental energy on “I should have started my own business” 10 years after they decided to let go of their dream. This person is so fixated on regret, he/she can’t move forward and do anything else. The “shoulda, coulda and woulda” mentality also creates a mindset that it’s too late, and whenever people feel like it’s too late to change, they lose hope.
On the flip side, there are some benefits to viewing life through a rear view mirror. Looking back is not always about dwelling on regrets or living in the past. Thinking about the past can also help us develop gratitude. Sometimes, we have to look back to see how far we’ve come. Here are three ways reflecting on the past can create hope for our tomorrow.
Celebrate Your Progress
Take a moment to celebrate where you are right now. Every step taken to move forward counts. Nothing is too small to acknowledge. You had the strength to get out of bed and leave the house today? Progress. You picked up your pen to write a paragraph after a hiatus? Progress. You laugh more than you cry nowadays? Progress. You went out with your friends and enjoyed yourself for the first time in months? Progress.
Remembering where we used to be when life first fell apart or changed will show us how much we’ve grown. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on where I was a year ago, and my heart is filled with gratitude on the progress I’ve made. (God gets the credit for that one!) Even though the journey ahead is still long, I’m thankful for the growth.
Moment of reflection: Do you remember where you were at the onset of your transition? What about a month after? Three months after? Six months after? Every time you decide to get up out of bed and keep going despite how you feel, you are making progress. Don’t get hung up on “setbacks” or bad days. We all have our moments. Even if I’m having a moment or bad day, I know deep down that I’ve made progress from where I started.
Remember, progress isn’t about perfection. It’s about using your potential to push through to the possibilities waiting on the other side of the problem.
Recognize Your Strength
You don’t fully understand the truth behind the well-known saying “whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” until you really go through something in life that brings you to your knees. You don’t realize how much strength you have inside of you until you’re put into a situation where it’s pulled out of you. It comes from your core and pushes you forward on the days when you feel like you can’t even stand.
I've only come across a few people around my age who've lost their mom and been down this road before. At the time it happened to them, I was devastated for them. I just couldn’t imagine ...it was the most horrific thing ever in my mind. Losing someone in my family that I loved so much was always the absolute worst thing that could happen to me.
A few years ago my brother’s best friend lost his mom unexpectedly. I remember admiring the strength he and his sister possessed while going through something so tragic as young adults. I didn’t know that my siblings and I would lose our mom and go through the same situation just two years later - not realizing that we would need that same strength to survive. Although I always considered myself a strong person, I never realized I possessed this type of strength until now. As I push myself through the hardest thing ever in life, I know I'll have the courage and strength to overcome anything else moving forward.
Moment of reflection: Reflecting on a challenging time in the past that you survived can give you the courage to face current problems with confidence. It helps you to realize that you've overcome hard times before, and you already have what it takes to make it through (and not just for yourself). You can uplift others around you because you've been transformed from a victim to a victor. Wounded to a warrior. You went through the fight of your life, and now you have the strength to get through anything. You’re no longer a captive. You’re more than a conqueror.
Remember your Breakthroughs
Breakthroughs – no matter how large or small – remind us that blessings can occur in any situation. They create a sense of gratitude for me personally, because I know I didn’t make them happen on my own, and I can’t take the credit for them. Whether your past breakthroughs happened in your finances, faith, career, relationships, health or personal growth, remembering them can encourage you that situations can change and improve over time. Especially if we don’t give up.
Breakthroughs can occur when we create an atmosphere of faith and hope: you’re expecting something to happen in a situation that seems impossible, you need help in a particular area that is beyond your ability, or you need a solution to a serious problem. A breakthrough transcends limitations to resolve a need.
If a person is sitting on stacks of cash and has no financial worry in the world, they probably won’t call up their friends in excitement after a raise and scream, “I just got a breakthrough in my finances.” They already have money. But you can believe if a person struggling from paycheck to paycheck received a 25 percent raise after praying and waiting for a change to occur in their finances, they’d have a different reaction because a breakthrough just happened.
No situation or person is left unchanged or in the same condition after experiencing a breakthrough.
Moments of reflection: Reminiscing on our past breakthroughs is a great way to remember that God is faithful and constantly at work in our lives, even when we don’t initially see it. I've discovered from personal experience that remembering past breakthroughs is extremely helpful when you’re in the process of rebuilding your faith and need a reminder that good things are birthed from hope, faith and determination. If breakthroughs happened in the past, that’s evidence they can happen for us again.
Getting through a life-changing event takes baby steps. We can’t always leap or run forward. Many of us, myself included, need to crawl our way through first before we can even stand. Progress takes time. You don’t have to move fast…just as long as you move forward. When we take a moment to reflect on our progress, strength and our past breakthroughs, our hope for the future can be restored.