How many of us have heard the saying, “The past is the past. Move forward and don’t look back”? Everyday, we are fed by messages on television, newspaper and social media that we need to aim for bigger, for better, for more!
We are told that in order to move forward, we should not look back at the past. We have become a very future-orientated generation. We embrace the mindset of “Go go go!” We obsess about what we want to achieve and how to get there. We have 5-year plans, 10-year plans, 20-year plans… You get the picture.
There is nothing innately wrong about being motivated and working hard for a future you envision. That is how most people achieve success. They set their eyes on a goal and work towards it. We have heard of all the inspirational stories like Barack Obama breaking all stereotypes to become the President of the United States, or Helen Keller defeating the odds of being deaf and blind to become a great educator and author, or Elvis Presley escaping his humble beginnings and embodying the title “King of Rock and Roll”. We marvel at their great successes and wonder when it would be our turn.
The truth of the matter is, not many people go through life without hardship. When we look at the examples of great people doing great things, what makes their success story remarkable is not just how they overcame difficulties but also the people they met along the way who believed in them and showed them kindness.
When we get overly fixated on the idea of moving forward and leaving the past, we very often get trapped in a little web we weave called “comparison”. Steve’s start-up business is doing so well. Olivia has bought a house in my dream district. Bryan has found the love of his life and is starting a family. Samantha’s children are getting such good grades… When we don’t progress as quickly as we expect in this race we view life as, we are so easily tempted to look at the people around us and wonder what we are doing wrong.
Sadly, comparison breeds discontentment and disillusionment. We lose sight of how far we have come. We neglect to see the obstacles we overcame. We forget to appreciate the people who have given us a hand along the way. We become ungrateful and dissatisfied. We adopt such a tunnel vision that we only focus on our goals and how to achieve them, that we lose the opportunity to be a blessing to those around us. There are people in our circle who may just need a little kindness, and you may be in the best position to do just that. Think about the people in your past who have been kind and patient to you and how great an impact that has made! I love this quote in Matt Haig’s latest bestseller The Midnight Library, “Let’s be kind to the people in our own existence”.
At the same time, we should never forget to be kind to ourselves. This can come in many forms. Set aside some time for yourself to do what you love. Recognise what you have achieved thus far. Set boundaries from toxic people. Look after yourself by getting enough sleep, keeping active and eating well. It is not so much about what you do but why and how you do it. This is crucial in building strong emotional resilience, which will take you a long way on your journey to achieving your goals.
There is a fine balance between self-acceptance, striving for our goals and showing love and kindness to others. It is not easy to achieve that balance, but being self-aware and making conscious decisions towards it is an amazing first step.
We have only one life. Why waste it comparing ourselves to others? Be a force of compassion and kindness not just to yourself but to those around you. Sometimes that is all it takes to make a difference.