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Looking Back to Move Forward

Using Your Past as Your Compass 

You often hear people say they never look back.  The past can bring pain and confusion for many of us.  However, I don’t subscribe to the notion that glancing back at the past from occasionally is a harmful practice. In fact, in my life, the exercise of reflection on things that have already happened has been very helpful in guiding me to the place in my current journey.  

For some people, the suffering brought on by the past is not worth “re-living”. Others don’t want to step out of the past and are constantly trying to find that sweet spot that created happiness at some point in their lives; they might even spend their entire life trying to get back to that space.  It’s very interesting that while most people would agree that life is a balancing act, they don’t apply that same principle to creating their journey by using a balance of the past, present, and future. 

While I’ve been writing Now What?! A Guide to Restarting Your Life, I was constantly asking myself to turn to the past so I could move forward with some things in my life that were creating obstacles to my journey.  I knew that large portions of the book would be very painful to think about, let alone put into a book that would help people to get to that next stage on their journey. Sometimes, self-reflection feels humiliating and shameful – harmful even. Not to mention, that pain of seeing your experiences in print make it that much more vivid and very permanent. As much as we don’t want to acknowledge our past, it’s the secret to creating a positive journey. So now what?

My Story
For me, I never wanted to be that person to make myself vulnerable.  Everyone is a moving target at one time or another. A moving target that random people or circumstances in life are constantly attempting to hit in one fashion or another.  Why add my past to the mix and make it that much easier for life to kick me down and keep me there for awhile? What people don’t often say is that in order for you to either keep your journey moving forward with a positive trajectory OR swing that pendulum from negative to positive, you have to constantly use the past as a tool to shape your present journey.


We have all had experiences, both positive and negative, that make a deep and lasting impression on us – whether we admit it or not.  I had a moment that I talk about in Now What?! A Guide to Restarting Your Life where I was quite literally curled up on the bathroom floor and had to force myself to get up (because I easily felt I could have just stayed down there and let life pass me by).  That in itself is hard to envision some days when I feel like everything is going as planned and life is good. Had I not chosen to look back on that moment, I would have never had the courage to write the book and potentially be a game-changer for the people that read it.  I believe life is bigger than myself.

I had a moment where I was literally curled up on the bathroom floor and had to force myself to get up.

Sometimes, in order to ensure a positive journey, we need to be willing and able to take our lessons from the past and set the tone from day to day, hour to hour.  We will not only set ourselves up for a positive and influential life, but the journey will be that much more victorious. 

Your Story

Today, I challenge you to write down 10 positive and 10 negative things from your past. These are the things that hurt your gut to think about. Or the things that make you smile or laugh out loud even though you are sitting all by yourself writing this list.  Do it in a way that makes you happy: bullet journaling, typing, dictation, photo diary or even drawing/painting. You need to remember these things and use them to your advantage.  

Next, I want you to take each of the negatives and list one positive about each experience.  This can be a lesson that you learned in what NOT to do in your future, or something that came out of the experience that was positive and brought you joy in your life.  We often don’t think about negative experiences in this way but I guarantee if you really take a minute, you can come up with at least one, if not more for each negative experience.  

A Moment of Truth

Finally, I highly encourage you to look yourself in the eye and ask, “Now what?”  When I was looking for resources and self-help books to get me to that next step after asking myself the same question, I couldn’t find much of anything that resonated.  Often, the things you find out there are either unattainable or out of touch with the raw emotion we all go through at times. Sometimes, a self-help book should have a warning that says “Worse After Reading”.   I say that because the author doesn’t usually lay the truth out there- it’s hard to get where they are! It’s not as easy as 5 simple steps. You really have to open yourself up to reflection and be honest about your life. 

I leave you with three key questions I ask in virtually any situation to use the past as my compass:

  1. When have I been here before?  
  2. Where am I now? 
  3. How will I move forward? 

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