I’m a fan of looking ahead to see what’s coming. It works perfectly when I’m driving my car because keeping my eyes on the road helps me avoid trouble. Just this week I was driving my family down the highway, and up ahead I noticed someone had lost part of their cargo in the center lane. It honestly looked like the liner to a large backyard hot tub. But because I had my eyes on the road, I saw it and adjusted my path to avoid it. Looking forward can teach you a lot, but it’s reactionary.
Looking backward, though, can be a powerful tool. I’m not talking about dwelling on the past, or refusing to let go of things that you honestly should forget about. What I mean is that when we reflect back on things in our past, we can learn a lot about where we are going today.
The old saying states that hindsight is 20/20. We see things clearer after the events are over. And so it’s easier to look at the last ten years of your professional life and notice patterns and see things you weren’t aware of. You might notice how you’ve picked up more and more clients in a particular field over the last five years — so slowly that you never noticed it at the time. Maybe you’ll pick up on the fact that you have always taken more joy from those months when your projects were focused on a particular skill and avoiding others that you thought were part of who you are.
When we look back and notice patterns, we see opportunities. We see lessons we can use to become better professionals and individuals. We might even see clutter or baggage that has held us back.
Look back. Learn from what you see. Let go of what’s gotten in the way. Your past is more than a history lesson — it’s one of your greatest tools.