Looking Back on Achievements and Mistakes
How often do we take the time to consider our past? We are, after all, the protagonists of our own stories. Reflecting on our own stories comes with the added benefit of increased understanding about who we are and how our actions affect the world around us at the most personal level.
We all succeed, sometimes. And while it might sound trivial or even conceited, celebrating those victories is important. Many of us are skilled at self-critique but flounder when it comes to self-congratulation; however, if we’re seeking balance (which we always are, right?), we need both. So, let’s remember to reflect upon our successes, to fan the embers of pride and joy that hopefully burned with gusto during the original occurrence. We are powerful and victorious and sometimes need a reminder.
We also all make mistakes. This truth can be uncomfortable to be reminded of, but it’s unfortunately not going away. We could bury our heads in the sand and refuse to acknowledge the mistakes we’ve made and the hurt we may have inflicted upon others and ourselves. Or we could allow the fear of making a mistake to freeze us and try to never move outside of our comfort zones so we can keep the scope of our mistakes as small as possible. Another option, is we could try our best to live our lives fully, knowing that we will make mistakes, and then using those mistakes as opportunities to learn, grow, and possibly strengthen our relationships.
Learning from Past Mistakes
Accountability is always retroactively applied, because it requires a mistake to have been made and then addressed. It is important for those around us that we take accountability for mistakes we have made, because it demonstrates that we are committed to reducing harm to those we are in relationship with. And it is important for our own personal growth that we look back and examine our mistakes so that we can work to truly embody the people we desire to be.
It Helps to Strategize
If growth is the goal, looking back is an invaluable tool. Analyzing the past and considering how our actions align with our values (or not) is a foundational step in creating strategies for acting in alignment with our values in the future.
Because there are no official playbooks for acting with integrity or kindness, acting in alignment with our values often requires making a judgment call in the moment. In some of these cases, it is not clear whether or not those actions align with our values until after the fact. Once the event has passed, we have the ability to examine it and our participation, in order to decide whether or not we would choose to act differently in the future, and if we would choose to act differently, how? This makes us more prepared for the next time any sort of similar situation arises.
When we have spent time analyzing the past and making plans for future growth, we will feel more sure of ourselves as we implement that growth. Familiarity brings a certain comfort level that can otherwise allude us. Spending time reflecting helps ground us as we move forward. Grounding often leads to stability and clarity, both of which lend themselves to confidence.
Seeing Things from Different Viewpoints
Looking back on something after some time has passed gives us the benefit of distance from the initial occurrence. With a little distance, the intensity of our initial feelings may fade. This can mean that when we look back, we have an easier time understanding the events from someone else’s perspective. When we understand things from other perspectives, we can gain a deeper understanding of our relationships and how we want to show up in them.
Confirm that You’re on the Right Path
Reflecting on the past can be helpful in the recognition of patterns and cycles in our lives. If we find ourselves caught in a cycle of negativity, that may be a sign that we need to make some changes. Perhaps we are oriented toward goals that don’t quite fit anymore, or maybe the way we are relating to people is unsustainable. The specific tweaks will of course be context specific.
Alternatively, if we find ourselves in a cycle that feels fulfilling or satisfying, albeit likely still challenging, at least in some regard, we can take that as an affirmation that we are right where we need to be. Being on the right path doesn’t mean that there won’t be obstacles, mishaps, and opposition, but it does mean that we also experience learning from those other-than-easy occurrences and growing in ways that feel rewarding.
Ways to Facilitate Looking Back
Reflecting on the past isn’t always easy. Sometimes it can be painful. Sometimes it can be hard to focus. It can also just feel challenging to conceptualize the somewhat vague practice of “looking back.” A couple of concrete ways to facilitate reflection on the past are journaling, having an in-depth conversation with a trusted confidante, meditating on specific questions or memories, and setting aside intentional time to be alone and contemplative. Tip: This might be easier to do in a natural setting. Park benches often make great reflection spots!
It’s important to not only reflect on what happened and our own actions, but also the motivation for our actions. We must ask why we did what we did. And if possible, really sit with that question. It may feel uncomfortable, but don’t rush to answer it so it will be over and done with. The clearer we can get about why we acted the way we did, the clearer the path to growth and/or celebration will be.
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