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Am I driving my life looking into the rear view mirror?

To set the background, let me mention a couple of very common examples:

There are a few things that I have heard people say often:

  • My husband or wife (could be boss too) does not understand me. S/he has never ever listened to me. S/he did this then, and then again, she did this at this time etc.

  • Whatever I try, s/he has never ever understood what it means to me, and that I expect something else.”

  • I know that s/he will not understand me. It has always been like that with this person.

  • Nothing I do, ever seems to please this person.

  • All my life, it has been this way!

This could be with regard to any relationship involving relative or friend; most common ones that come up are

  • wife and husband

  • In laws

  • boss and subordinate

  • friends

  • and last but certainly not the least, Self (yes, we all have a relationship with our own selves as well)

So what does all this have to do with “driving my life, looking into the rear view mirror?” maybe the question. And so, let me take the analogy of driving a vehicle that has rear view mirrors, and compare it with living one’s life.

In a vehicle, there are 3 main areas that a “driver” needs to focus on:

  1. Seeing what is in front and the sides – looking ahead, through the windscreen and through the sides using peripheral vision

  2. Seeing what is behind – using the rear view mirrors, maybe one inside and two outer rear view mirrors on either side of the vehicle

  3. Doing – steering, accelerating, braking, changing gears, etc.

And in the act of driving, seeing what is in front is of utmost importance. Based on what is in front, or on the sides, the driver can take appropriate action to ensure safety of the passengers in the vehicle, and more importantly, getting the vehicle to the intended destination.

It is also clear that (without technological aids like driverless cars) vision is of utmost importance to driving a vehicle. And looking at what is in front (what lies ahead as the figure of speech goes) is the most important thing in the journey. Based on what the driver sees up ahead, they take appropriate action, of steering, accelerating, changing gears, braking as the case may be.

The rear view mirror is of great use, especially when the driver wants to brake, or to change lanes, or maybe even to reverse, when the way ahead is blocked.

So, using an arbitrary “formula” based on absolutely no data except my own perception, I choose to say that the act of driving can be split up into varying percentages of focus, as follows:

  • Looking forward : 65%

  • Looking backward : 10%

  • Driving : 25%

Up to 90% of the effort and focus lies on what is ahead (future), and doing in the present (driving) as against looking backward (the past) which is 10%.

And if one were to drive, looking always into the rear view mirror, it is obvious that the journey would come to an abrupt, and more often than not, sad, and even gruesome end.

Let us now equate the 3 parts of driving with the time frames in life:

  • Past = Rear View Mirror

  • Future = Windscreen, what lies ahead and maybe the sides

  • Present = Driving, doing, in the moment

In the course of working with people, I have found one common thread that connects most people who have “relationship” issues. They are so focused on the past, and refuse to let go of events and emotions that have taken place in the past. And many continue to play the “victim” in these experiences, and continue to hold the pain, refusing to let go. (For more on this, you could read an earlier article, "Learn the lesson, forget the pain!")

They are so fixated on the past, that they refuse to consider that the future could be different.

Brian Tracy says, “If you want something you have never had before, then you have to do something that you have never done before!” And Albert Einstein, when asked to define insanity, said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Let us get back to the driving analogy: I suggest that you take an event that happened in the recent past that upset you. This is the equivalent of driving into a pothole that you did not see. It has certainly jarred you, and may even have caused you physical pain. In life, the equivalent of driving into a pothole might have caused you emotional pain as well. Whilst that is true, what would happen if because you drove into the pothole, you keep looking at the same pothole in the rear view mirror, and continue driving? Chances are, the journey would come to an abrupt end. That is where the similarity between the driving analogy and living life ends. Because, in life, the journey does not come to an end – it keeps going on, without any real joy though!

What would definitely be useful, is to learn the lesson from having driving into a pothole, and to be more vigilant while looking ahead. And that is what most people who drive vehicles do – alas, they don’t do that with the events that have happened in the past.

What would be useful in life, is to learn the lesson, and forget the pain, and ensure that the same mistakes are not made. However, that does not mean that one stops living life to the fullest, with love, kindness, compassion and gratitude.

A wise person was once asked, what the solution was to a feud between two cultures that has been running for millennia. The person responded, “Amnesia!” And then added, “As long as one faction is focused on wreaking revenge for acts of the other, there can be no solution! The only answer is that both factions develop amnesia and forget the past, and look to the future.” So, “selective amnesia” can be extremely useful.

I was working with a person who had received a fair share of “not so positive” feedback in a skip level meeting that client’s subordinates had had with the client’s manager. This left the client feeling quite depressed and not thinking well of themselves. Through the course of the session I had with my client, the client started to look at things differently. I used the analogy of driving a car then, and with a few more embellishments. At the end of the session, the client was back to being positive, and looking optimistically at the future. They resolved to meet each of the people, with an open mind, focused on solutions.

I helped my client create a placard that the client then placed in the meeting room, visible to both the client and the persons they were meeting. The placard had the following things to remind both the client and the person they were meeting:

I believe that this is a “Placard” that each of us must have when we are communicating with anyone. These are useful tips that can help each of us focus on the future, and on solutions.

So, are you driving your life looking into the rear view mirror? Or do you choose to drive your life in a positive manner, looking to the future with hope and optimism? Remember, there is nothing new in the past! It has already happened and none can change it. How one acts NOW, can make all the difference to one’s future!

So, live with hope, optimism and yes, definitely learning from the experience gained from the past, and letting go of the hurt and pain! I wish you all health, peace, love and joy!

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