It might sound counter intuitive, looking back to move forwards… I mean, how can thinking about the past help with the future? All the stuff you’ve read about visualising your ideal future so that you can move towards it is at odds with my suggestion, is it not..?
But hear me out
Too often, we race ahead, towards the future we want to have. While having an outcome in mind is a good thing, racing forwards, often without even stopping to take a breath, doesn’t give us time to reflect, to consider whether we’re even still going in the right direction (because it’s ok to change your mind!) or, importantly, let go of difficult lessons learned and really celebrate our successes so that we can move into the future leaving the baggage of the recent past behind us.
Have you checked you ‘done’ list lately?
Perhaps you have a ‘to-do’ list (or some version of this), and each time you tick something off, you breathe a sigh or relief/satisfaction and move on to the next. The thing is, these lists can be never ending. For everything you complete there’s something new you want to achieve. Ambition is great but this constant game of catch-up can lead to feelings of overwhelm and anxiety that you’ll never reach the end and if you stay too long this state, you might start to wonder whether it’s even worth trying.
I know this because I still find myself in this story sometimes. I try to remember to take the time that I need to but sometimes I forget, and sometimes I get so wrapped up in the excitement of a new project that I don’t take enough time to even think about, let alone celebrate, the positives of what came before.
Looking back at how far you’ve come
For me, the Christmas holidays are a time to not only reconnect with friends and family but also to reflect on the past year. However, our memories of what the start of the year was like when we get to December can be little hazy and it’s easy to only focus on what’s present right now, which may or may not be helpful!
This is why I love FutureMe.org. Every December, usually at some point between Christmas and New Year, I take the time to sit down and write myself an email from the past. Sounds weird? It was the first time I did this, which was back in 2009. Almost every year since then (I forgot one. By that time it was weird not to have done it), I take at least half an hour to write whatever is present on my mind at the time first, before looking back over the past year at what went well and what went less so, and to think about my hopes for the future and whether these have changed over the past year (they usually have).
I then send this email a year into the future so that come New Year’s Day, when everyone is making resolutions, I’m reading my thoughts from the previous year.
This too shall pass
The biggest thing I’ve noticed from this exercise is that everything passes. I read about something that was really present for me a year ago and it has always passed by the time I’m reading about it. Reading about where you were a year ago can also help when it comes to celebrating success. Ideas that were just that – a spark of thought – a year ago can be so much more a year later and the realisation of this can be a real motivator for whatever comes next. It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come though, if we don’t take the time to look back.
Even if it feels like you’ve not come that far, sending an email into the future is also a chance to counter balance any negative self-talk with some real ‘cheerleading’ – an opportunity to talk to yourself how you might talk to you closest friend, to set you up with a positive start for the year ahead.
If you’ve not yet heard of Future Me, why not check it out and see what you think? It’s totally free to use (in case you were wondering, this is not an affiliate post!) and you can even read some of the public letters – people use it for all sorts of reasons but how you choose to use it is of course, up to you.
Why not try it out by sending yourself an email right now, either about something that seems big to you now, to see how it feels in a month’s time, or with a positive message for any time you think you’re going to need a boost? If you do send yourself an email in the future, I’d love to hear how it feels when you finally receive it – whether that’s a week, a month or even a year from now! Do come back and share.