Don’t spend too much time looking in the rear-view mirror

When learning to drive we’re constantly reminded about the importance of checking our rear-view mirror, not just when reversing or changing lanes but for general awareness of our surroundings and enhancing our peripheral vision. However, spending too much time looking in the rear-view mirror can be hazardous as it distracts us from what’s happening in front of us and may delay our ability to avoid an accident.

 Photo credit: Miss Grey Photography.

This analogy is not that different to how we should view our reflection on not only this year but also our life’s journey. “Hindsight is 20/20”, meaning it’s sometimes easier to see or understand something after it has happened. Looking back is important as it gives us an insight into our lives and valuable life lessons can be gained, helping us move forward and hopefully make more informed decisions in the future. As Slim Dusty reminds us in his classic song “Looking Forward Looking Back” is a practice that can help build connection, meaning and understanding in our life journey.

Spending too much time worrying or thinking about the past can also be problematic. This does depend on our individual capacity to cope with life events thrown our way as well as our personality type (pessimist, realist or optimist). However, some problems from spending too much time looking in the rear-view mirror can manifest themselves by:

  • Resentment towards others (looking for someone to blame);
  • Difficulty seeing the positives in our lives (family, friends, the good decision we have made!);
  • Regret manifesting itself in feelings of low self-esteem and lack of confidence;
  • Distraction and avoidance from the here and now (conversations that go around in circles, referring to all the could have/should have scenarios);
  • Difficulty to move forward or make decisions due to the fear of making a mistake;
  • Catastrophizing “it will just happen again, “things always go wrong for me” or “everything’s stuffed!!”.

Every year there are things that occur that we could have done without. An important first step in reflecting and learning from things is understanding if the occurrence was a controllable factor. How much time did we waste worrying or regretting things that are out of our control? In regional, rural and remote Australia, this season has thrown up numerous seasonal and climatic events that have caused significant distress for individuals, families and businesses. So, what can we do?

I reckon it all starts with working on what’s in our control and doing something is better than doing nothing, that is dealing with the here and now:

  • Talk about how we feel and realise we are not alone;
  • Remember resentment is like letting someone else live in our head rent free;
  • Practice mindfulness, remember our senses (taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell) can help bring us back to the moment and get us out of our head;
  • Look after our wellbeing – exercise, healthy diet, good sleep, and positive relationships;
  • Have something to look forward to – a holiday, time away, catching up with friends/family.

To finish with my favourite verse from that great song by Slim “There are strange days, full of change on the way, but we’ll be fine, unlike some, I’ll be leaning forward, to see what’s coming”.

Don’t forget to take time to recognise your achievements, appreciate the positives and rest up over the holiday season!

Terry and the Team 
The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401
Phone: 08 9690 2277