A quote from a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog started me thinking about how it applies to life. The quote was from WWII General George C. Marshall, the father of the Marshall Plan that resulted in the rebuilding of Europe. “When a thing is done, it’s done. Don’t look back. Look forward to your next objective.” (George C. Marshall)
When you are driving in a car, you cannot move forward (at least not very far or fast) by continually looking in the mirror to see where you’ve been. You must look forward to see where you are going. In life, some people seem to fixate on the mirror, spending their time looking back, perhaps in regret for things done or left undone. We sometimes refer to them as “living in the past”. But, the truth is that one cannot live in the past. The past is done and it cannot be undone, no matter how much we may wish that things could be different.
Perhaps the issue for some is that they don’t have a “next objective” to look forward to and to work towards. I have noticed that when I awaken in the morning on a day that I have nothing planned, I manage to get very little done, and the day just drags along. However, if I have things that I knew ahead that I wanted to get done that day, I awaken with a sense of purpose to accomplish those objectives – I can’t wait to get started. The ends of those two types of days are also very different, too – one with relief that the day is finally over and the other ending with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
I’ve also noticed that people who can’t seem to let go of the past, who are fixated on the mirror are less happy with life. That might include those who cannot put the loss of a job aside and go on with life; or those who cannot find a way to put the loss of a loved one into a place of good memories and move on. Perhaps it includes those who cannot put a snub or social slight into its proper place of un-importance; or perhaps those who cannot see beyond preconceived prejudices from their past. For whatever reason these people have fixated on the mirror of the past.
So, the take-away from Marshall’s quote is to put down that mirror. What’s done is done. Accept it and move on. Find a new objective and focus upon that. Find that new job, maybe one that involves something that you really love to do. Recognize and deal with the preconceived notions about people that you’ve been carrying around like baggage and see if life doesn’t get a little more interesting when you allow different points of view into your thinking. Look for new relationships than might lead to finding a new significant other – not to replace the lost loved one, but to crate new memories in addition to those fond memories from the past that you can glance at in the mirror from time-to-time
Life continues to move forward, whether you are looking in the mirror or looking ahead. Life is just a whole lot more satisfying when you are pursuing new objectives, rather than trying to live in the past. The current Chevrolet commercial tag line is “Find new roads”; maybe that’s what Marshall meant. Don’t spend your time looking in the mirror; find the new roads of your life and look ahead to your next objective.
The mirror in your car does help when going in reverse, but life doesn’t have a reverse gear. Look past your mirror and see what’s ahead fort you. Find your new roads.
Your blog is one of my favorite readings of the day. I enjoy your insights. There’s a reason of the windshield being bigger than the review mirror.
[…] also posted here a few times about not living in the past – see “Don’t fixate on the mirror…” and I’ve occasionally written about not spending all of your time daydreaming about the future […]