Why reflection opens up your world to the present and future

Memory Lane.

It’s not a destination. But it is a place that’s very important for us to revisit as we continue moving forward on our journey through life.

Wait, huh?!

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Yes, we make sense of our present and future by reflecting upon our past.

Not dwelling there. Not spending too much time there than we need.

Rather, spending just enough time to make peace, sometimes seek forgiveness, gain clarity and make sense of all that we are trying to do.

I thought of that on my recent trip to Washington, DC. I lived in Washington for four years, from 2008–2012. I found it interesting to return to a place that I’m not from, and yet very much shaped me into the man I am today.

You see, if there’s one, very valuable piece of wisdom that I’ve learned over time it’s this:

If we’re going to have a bright future, we need to grow and prosper from the lessons of our past.

Good and Bad.

Our biggest mistake is when we ignore our experiences. If we don’t spend the time to extract every ounce of wisdom that we can from them.

One thing I thought about- and used to really bother me, to be honest- was how lazy I used to be. I simply didn’t push myself hard enough. I avoided really challenging myself out of fear. It’s why I’m such a huge proponent of embracing the fear in your life and using it to drive you. As they say, “What’s in the way, is the way.”

As I arrived back in DC, memories came back to me. Yes, I had a busy management consulting job that at times was stressful. But, on the whole, I had the time to pursue my passions. I just didn’t push myself hard enough. Only toward the final 1–2 years that I was there did I start to see more of my what my potential future looked like.

I began coaching high school basketball.
I grew closer in my relationship with God.
I started doing a lot of writing, but at that time, only for myself.
I rekindled the relationship with my now-wife and ultimately proposed to her. That was the best action I took.

All great things.

But for a while there, I was immature. I think to a certain extent, I paid the price as I continued in my professional career. I didn’t so much get better at my job, as I did tread water and do “just enough.” I didn’t reach my potential. I didn’t put all the pieces together. I was much more concerned with going out to have fun.

With the benefit of reflection, I’m now really proud of the life that I’m living. I’ve become much more driven. I’ve pushed myself to do things that I’m really proud of. So much of my focus went from being about me, to now being about others.

I’m much more passionate about helping others and figuring out how to support myself and my family by doing so. These things required going through trials of adversity. They required hard work and deep thinking. And like I mentioned, they required some mental and emotional pain. I kicked the can down the road for far too long. Thank God I made amends and changed my ways.

Does this resonate with you?
What have you put off in your life?
What have you avoided in an attempt to take the safe or the conservative path?

As you’ll see in the video below from a commencement speech by Jim Carrey, it’s so important to take the hard way and enjoy the journey. To avoid the conservative path when it comes to living the life and career you want.

“You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.” — Jim Carrey

Reflection is very often what helps us learn this. Sure, we can learn from the remarkable true story of Jim Carrey and many others. But when it comes to taking action, a lot of the time, we have to learn these lessons ourselves. It’s what we take from them that make us the women and men we’re destined to be.

I hope your reflection brings you to recognize that your gift — all of our gifts — is giving your natural talents, energy and self to the world. To produce your best work, from your heart and soul, and use it to contribute to the betterment of your fellow man and woman.

“The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.” — Jim Carrey

A bit lofty? Yeah, I’ll admit it.

But that’s a lifetime’s worth of reflections talking to you and encouraging you to take up the gauntlet of doing that thing you’ve always wanted to do, even when it would be much more convenient to avoid it.

The worst thing is to live your life regretting, pining for, or complaining about that chance you never took. Go for what’s yours. Look back at where you’ve been and where you want to go.

As Jim Carrey says in his speech, the present is really all that matters when it comes to action. But as you reflect in this moment and think about all that you can learn from where you’ve been, you’ll find you’ve acquired a remarkable amount of wisdom that you can harness and use to your advantage to become the best version of your self.

There’s a reason why a brilliant reflecting pool is positioned directly in front of The Lincoln Memorial in the U.S. capital. It’s a way for such a powerful monument to stand even taller. To leave an even greater impression on our mind. To let us know just how much our past matters. That we can look back, learn from it, and move forward with confidence and conviction.

It only takes a few minutes, but I encourage you to make peace with your past and use it to guide and shape your present. That trip down Memory Lane is always worth it.

This article first appeared on Medium

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