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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

Look Through the Windshield of Life, Not the Rearview Mirror

Updated: May 5, 2021

In a recent discussion I was having on perspectives in life, I was reminded of an analogy I heard several years ago. The difference between dwelling on the past versus looking towards the future is like driving a car while looking through the rearview mirror instead of the windshield.

To my pleasant surprise, much has been written on this subject, so I’ve reprinted comments from several authors to help illustrate this point.

The driver of a car spends less than five percent of their time using the small rearview mirror to look behind them. However, the car’s windshield is huge. It provides the driver with maximum clarity and visibility about what’s in front of them in order to arrive safely at their chosen destination.

Are you more focused on what lies behind you in the rearview mirror of your life or on what lies ahead through the windshield of your life?

One of the most common excuses given by people who struggle to meet their potential, is that their past prevents them from realizing their God-given gifts. They continue to look back at their past and dwell on things that happened long ago. It’s as if they are driving a car and while looking through the rearview mirror instead of focusing on the road ahead of them. This approach often results in their hitting a guard rail, running off the road or crashing into adversity.

While we all carry memories of past experiences with us: difficulty with a learning disability or the trauma of a failed marriage; struggles with alcohol or being a victim of abuse - we need not let something that has happened in our past dictate who we are or define our future.

Note that in saying this, I’m not suggesting that past experiences in a person’s life are not important, but rather I’m suggesting that we shouldn’t let those events define us.

Simply said, stop looking in the rearview mirror and focus on the road ahead of you. Doing so will prevent you from continually questioning the impact your past has on your ability to achieve success in the future. Instead, focus your mental mindset on your destination through windshield ahead of you and see a road of endless possibilities.

If you desire to make a better way forward, here are three suggestions on what to do with things in the rearview mirror of your life:

  • Look at them – you may not want to look at your past, but it’s imperative that you do, because you can’t learn from something you refuse to review.

  • Learn from them – as best you can, learn why things were the way they were, why things happened as they did, and why you reacted as you did. This will help you understand who you are and what you do in the present. It may be easier to understand things now that you’re down the road a bit, but if not, seek out someone to help you…like a good friend, a pastor, or a counselor.

  • Leave them behind – your past will always be a part of your history. You can’t change it or forget it. But if you are willing to look at it and learn from it, then you can make peace with it and leave it where it belongs…in the past.

We are all on our way to an ultimate destination that requires us to see where we’ve been and focus on where we’re going. So, stop looking in your rearview mirror and start focusing on what lies ahead of you. Don’t let your past define who you are today.

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