To Achieve Success, Focus on the Future

by Bywater, PhD, Liz Monday, October 08, 2007
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Fall is back. The morning air is crisp and children are back in school. Friends, neighbors, and business acquaintances reconnect and ask one another about the past few months. So, how was your summer? What did you do? Where did you go?

Wouldn’t it be more interesting to instead ask, What are your plans for the Fall? What will you do? Where will you go? What will you accomplish? These sorts of questions are just as good a starting point for conversation, just as effective a means of connecting. The difference, of course, is that they are based not in the past but in the immediate future. It’s like the difference between hanging out at the rear of a boat, staring at the familiar shores you’ve left behind, and standing alert at the front, eagerly anticipating the shores to come.

In truth, it’s quite compelling to focus on the past. Whether we’re resting on our laurels for prior accomplishments or berating ourselves for past mistakes, there is a certain ease of familiarity about days gone by. Been there, done that. It may not be exciting anymore but, hey, it’s what we know.

The problem is that staying rooted in the past makes it awfully difficult to forge ahead. You simply can’t look backward and forward at the same time. While it’s perfectly okay and even advisable to reflect on past achievements and errors, you just cannot allow yourself to remain mired in your own history. The way to move forward is, well, to move forward. Chart a course and start sail. Take in all the wonders that lie ahead. Steer clear of the hazards. With both eyes focused on what’s before you, you can make sound decisions and take meaningful steps toward achieving your goals.

While you’re at it, why not move your relationships forward in a similar way? Had a bad encounter with a coworker last month? Let it go. Clean the slate and see how much easier it is to work together without all that resentment forming a wedge between you. Argued with your spouse before work? Take a deep breath and then release the pent up anger. You’ll be more productive – and a lot less irritable – throughout the day. Hey, you may actually look forward to seeing your spouse again at the end of the day - instead of dreading an unpleasant continuation of the morning’s battle.

As the trees release their summer foliage in preparation for the months ahead, reflect upon the value of letting go. Set your sites on what lies ahead and move toward it with confidence and conviction. I assure you, you’ll be better off for doing so.