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Life consists of time, and our existence is based on the past, present, and future. Many of us live our lives in the past, believing that our best days are behind us and if we keep those memories alive then we will be happy.

Others live in the present, believing that the past is behind us and the future is ahead of us, but the present is right now. Then there are people who live for the future, never satisfied with the present, do not want to think of their past, and believe that life is only worth living while seeking tomorrow.

There really is no right or wrong way to live. If you choose to live in any of these time zones, this is completely up to you, however, it is important to have a clear understanding of the consequences of living a life that does not consistently involve moving forward, in some regular capacity.

We can long for days passed, relish in the present moment, and plan for the future all while taking active steps to keep moving forward everyday, becoming better people with each morning that we wake up and face a new day.

The real problem arises when we are moving backwards, getting stuck in patterns of living that are not conducive to maintain our peace and positivity. There are so many different experiences in this life that it can be very easy to find ourselves caught up in the familiar, or what makes us “feel” good. But if this feel good moment is causing us to spin in circles, interrupting our progress forward, then we need to assess if we are moving in the wrong direction altogether.

As we live each day of our lives, we have to carefully monitor our thinking and behavior. Living in the past may result in negative thinking patterns as our thoughts are stuck on all of the “would-of’s”, “should-of’s”, and “could-of’s” in our minds. Instead of being grateful for the experiences we have had (both good and bad) instead we only see the negative and feel like life has somehow defeated us now and for the future.

When we focus too much on the future, we can miss out on the blessings in the present moments. The future is not guaranteed to any of us, and it is important that we take our lives one day at a time. Of course planning and setting goals is part of existence, but it cannot be the only part. We have to be careful to remind ourselves that this present moment is really what we have, and that tomorrow will bring a set of its own blessings and challenges.

Balance is key. Leaping forward in our life means that we are seeking to be our best selves mentally, emotionally, and physically. We are not centered in past choices or mistakes, and we are not zoned in on the future either. We actively realize that both time dimensions are essential to a life well-lived.

So, why is this even important? 

Why does it matter if we think more of our past, present, or future? 

Consider this:

  • When we live in the past, constantly thinking of days past, we are moving in a backward direction. We are focused on things that we cannot change. This will likely result in pessimistic thinking, poor behaviors/choices, and a defeated mindset.
  • Living in the past is a nightmare. We will blame ourselves for things that we may not have even known then. As the saying goes: When we know better, we do better. So, we cannot always beat ourselves up for past choices as we may not have had all of the tools or options that we have today, back then.
  • Life’s circumstances change by the minute. If we are moving backward, we are not preparing ourselves for current challenges. We have to stay “mentally in the game of life”, meaning that we need to live in the present, with only a part of us in the future. 
  • Moving forward is the natural course of life. As soon as we are born, we begin aging. Time only moves forward, not backward. Seasons change, and no season is exactly the same. This is the natural course of life: progression. If we do not learn how to flow with this natural direction of life, we will be frustrated and likely miserable. We are not designed to move backward, we even physically walk forward, drive our cars forward more than in reverse, etc.
  • Change is imminent, and this is one guarantee in this life. No matter how hard we try to keep things the same, we will be challenged by changes that we planned and those that are unexpected. Moving forward is moving toward and with the changes in life. Looking backward is trying to keep things the same, which is impossible.

Try to see your life as an ongoing movie. Each scene is building upon the other, but at some point the movie will end. Your movie is unique to your life story, but movie’s are meant to be watched in their entirety, in a forward-play-motion, not watching the movie in reverse. Enjoy watching the movie, without trying to rewind, change, or delete scenes.

Allow each day to flow and do your best to stay positive and not too focused on either the past or the future. Doing this will allow you to become better skilled at balancing your thinking surrounding time and existence.

More peace will result from thinking and living in a forward motion, instead of backwards.