To Go Forward, Look Back

A couple of years ago, on a 4a.m. minivan ride, I had a profound conversation with a close friend which I think we can learn from.

I was driving my friend, Libby, and her three kids to the airport so they could fly to some-city-or-another to meet her husband, Steve, –who is a pilot– and spend some time with him before the next leg of his latest trip. I had met Libby and Steve nearly ten years earlier when we were in our late teens and early twenties (Steve and Libby are slightly older than me), and in the early morning quiet of her minivan I was struck by the bizarreness of the position we were now in. The conversation was short, but I think it holds an important point. It went something like this:

Ian: Man, did you ever think when we first met that I’d eventually be driving you and your kids to the airport in your minivan? We were so young, and now we’re both married and you’ve got three kids. Life is so weird.

Libby: I know! I was just thinking about that! It feels so weird.

Ian: Pretty cool, though.

Libby: Definitely.

Interesting, right? I think so.

As I was reflecting on that conversation this morning, I was struck by the profound weirdness and beauty that is the human experience. When I look back at the 17-year-old Ian who first met Libby and Steve, I am amazed by the similarities that still exist between he and I, but also by the profound differences that separate us. In the ensuing twelve years, I have experienced more intense joy and agonizing pain than that teenager ever thought possible. I’ve gotten married, gained friends, lost relationships, buried loved-ones, and had to scramble to survive after the life-plan that I had worked toward since childhood fizzled and died. It’s been an absolutely insane, wonderful, terrifying ride.

And you know what? Thinking about those wonderful, awful, and crazy experiences brings me a deep sense of peace, because they put me on the path to find the man I am becoming today. And I really, really like that guy.

And that, my friend, brings me to the main point I want to make with this post:

It’s important in life to revel in the places we’ve been. Because without occasionally looking backward, we can’t effectively grow and move forward.

In our world today, there is so much focus placed on living mindfully in the moment, living our “best life”, planning and preparing for the future, and manifesting our own destiny through our day-to-day actions, that we can easily forget to take the time to reflect on where we’ve been.

Life has many stages. It’s important to learn from each of them.

And I think that’s a mistake we shouldn’t allow ourselves to make.

For me, as I take the time to look back, there are certain memories that I wish I could forget and those that I hope to always remember. Reflecting on the bad ones –not judging myself, mind you, but really examining them– gives me powerful reasons to chose my actions and relationships carefully, and the good ones provide guideposts for me to follow as I work to grow and become the guy I want to be.

And I’m sure you have similar experiences.

When in your life have you royally screwed up? Or succeeded beyond your wildest imaginings? What can you learn from past pain and old ecstasy? It can be scary, but I encourage you to take a look. Just make sure you’ve got the time to do it right.

The next time you have some time and space to really delve, I invite you to reflect not on where you are, or where you’d like to go, but to look backward. It can be an intense experience, learning from ourselves can be hard, but I think it’s worth it. Because, when it comes down to it, each of us is ultimately the sum of all of our parts, good, bad, or otherwise.

Thanks for reading, you’ve got this,



31 thoughts on “To Go Forward, Look Back

  1. Great post Ian! Although I’m the type to try my best to live in the moment, I do think reflecting on the past is also important. To really think about how we can learn and grow from past mistakes and lessons. But not live and stay stuck in the past that’s when it can be unhealthy. Looking back can also help us let go, heal and move forward πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love indulging in the memory-laden path I’ve been on. Not all experiences have been positive, but when the road ahead is uncertainty, it’s reassuring to remember that life is always remarkable and unique

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This a wonderful post! It causes you tobreally pause and think about 0ast experiences that make us who we are today and how our relationships have grown with those we love over time.
    Thinking back on past experiences helps to ground you and center as well when trials come up.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! That’s one of a few sub-points that I couldn’t figure out how to coherently add into the post. I’m glad you enjoyed it!


  4. Yes I definitely agree with this because without looking back we can’t see where we’re going.
    Our life experiences change us in so many ways, why wouldn’t we want to grow and learn from them?
    Great post πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, thanks so much for sharing this post with everyone. It was a very interesting read. Also great that a brief conversation with a friend brought you to reflect and write this post.
    I’ve always been a firm believer in learning from the past mistakes in order to move on progressively. I am definitely not the same woman I was 10 years ago, probably not even the same as the one a couple of years back either. But a lot of that is down to what you said, learning from the past. Some memories are darker so I don’t focus on them too much. But there are many things that got me where I am now.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This was a thoughtful post that got me thinking as well. There are many times in life I didn’t think I was going to make it. This was from paying the bills on time to making a better life for my wife and I. They sure were scary moments but it reminded me to keep pressing forward and do the best I could. No matter how intense it got, my wife and I always held it together. She has supported me so much and it’s helped me to grow. I’ll make more of an effort to take the teachings she taught me and apply them to help her out as well. Keep posting, you got this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it sounds like we have had some similar experiences, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading 😊


  7. I heard it said so often – ‘never look back, always look forward’, and then I read this post and know I’m not the only one who looks back to be able to look forward. If it were not for the mistakes, highlights, laughter, tears, joy and life I l have already lived, I’d be scared about what the future has in store for me. Does that make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Perfectly! I think people put too much focus on looking forward right now. Life is about balance, and that often means reflecting on where we’ve been as well as on where we’d like to go

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post Ian! I think this was just what I needed right now, everyone always says to look forward but I’ve got to a point where I have to look back and reflect to try and better understand where I am now, so this was a nice and reassuring read!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sometimes I have a hard time reflecting on my past especially when it comes to any setbacks or mistakes. to this day, if people speak negatively about my past mistakes or life choices I get down on myself. I’m trying my best not to though because those decisions got me to where i am today. it’s all perspective. i really resonated with this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m right there with you. I have so much negative self talk going so much of the time that reflecting can get REALLY hard for me. Honestly, most of these posts are just me talking to myself and this one is especially so. I’m glad it resonated for you, we can totally do this.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I loved reading this as it made me stop for a moment and think back. It made me appreciate how far I’ve come and what I have now. Even the little things like living in my own flat, with my partner and I can’t wait to look back in ten years and see how far I’ve come again.

    I think it is important to not live in the past but to look back and see what you have accomplished. Yes, there are things we all want to forget, but even those moments shape and change us, hopefully for the better.

    As you say, we are the sum of all our experiences, the good and the bad. Thank you for sharing such a reflective post. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Totally agree with occasionally looking back to grow ❀ I try doing that to move forward! Thanks for sharing this. Needed to hear it again today!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think it’s good to look back at times. I think back to moments in my life to remind myself how far I’ve come and remind myself how tough I am. This is a great post! πŸ™‚

    Tips Chick Blogger πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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