As we come to the close of a tumultuous 2014, I am reminded that, as a society, we seem to be obsessed with looking over our shoulders with barely a single glance toward the road ahead. Using contemporary terms, our most common mistakes as a people might actually be labeled, “distracted living.” We are so focused on yesterday that we forget to prepare for tomorrow.
Someone much smarter than I once said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. The statement generally refers to preventing the recurrence of negative events. But if something good happened, it’s only logical that you would want to repeat that success. To truly progress, however, we must learn from the past while at the same time keeping our attention focused on the future.
Unfortunately, we are often more affected by the negative in life than the positive; a death in the family, lost job, financial struggle, and so on. People and events from the past have us constantly looking over our shoulders, dwelling on our sadness, sense of loss and nostalgia. But while they may provide momentary comfort, these feelings also tend to hold us in place and keep us from advancing to a better future.
As 2014 comes to an end, I implore my readers to look to the horizon and make an effort to work towards better things in the coming year. Life is all about making the best choices possible based on personal experience, the current situation, consequences of your actions and your own needs going forward.
Writers are generally encouraged to omit anything – settings, objects, characters – that do not serve to keep the plot of a story moving forward. To keep life moving ahead we must do the same thing by eliminating anything that keeps us stagnant.
First, you need to focus on yourself more. It may sound selfish, but it’s necessary. As someone who has had to help care for aging parents, I have learned that in order to help them, I have to keep myself going. Maintaining your mental and physical health is vital if you are to be of any use to anyone else.
Dismiss negative people from your life and don’t get mixed up in the drama of others. Some people exist solely in their own world, completely unaware of how their behavior affects others. If someone is literally exhausting you from drama or they’re incredibly high-maintenance, it’s time to cut them loose. You can’t move ahead if someone like this is always dragging you down.
Stop repeating pointless behavior while expecting a different outcome. Very often, we can get stuck in a pattern of useless behavior, always doing the same thing and hoping that “this time,” it will come out differently. But it never does and it never will.
Stop procrastinating. Yes, this is probably the hardest piece of the puzzle. How to do today what you can very easily put off until tomorrow. But if you’re someone who constantly complains about your situation yet does little to change it, procrastination could be a big chunk of the problem.
Most people find excuses to cover procrastination; “they’ll never hire me for that new job,” “that’s too hard,” or, “she’ll never say yes.” Get over yourself – and your fear – and take that first step forward. And yes, most procrastination is the result of being afraid, not of failure but success.
Finally, I’ve never been a big believer that writing down a list of goals does anything more than make you feel inadequate. “Self-help” nonsense puts so much pressure on goals that if you don’t meet the ones you wrote down, then you must be a failure and that can result in its own devastating effect.
Forget goals, but at least have an idea of what a better, more successful tomorrow looks like to you. In the end, the future belongs to you, no one else. Get off your tail and do something about it and stop looking backward. Happy New Year! Now get out there and make this one your best ever!
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, ohio. More at gerydeer.com.