Live Forward the Way You Look Back
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
—Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard
Things Don’t Happen for a Reason
Things don’t happen for a reason, they just… happen. The cycle of life and death is hardwired into the universe. Our feeble, human attempts to change the inevitable by painting a layer of reason and emotion on top are at the same time laudable and laughable. As the Buddhists say, you are not special.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to create the conditions for success, however. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work hard and leave everything we’ve got on the field of play. We should, however, make a conscious effort to leave those destructive twins, Fear and Anxiety, behind.
In a nutshell, should you create the conditions for success? Yes. Should you physically, mentally and emotionally give it everything? Yes. And how about recognizing that your efforts will yield a good or bad, short- or long-term result with plenty of learnings? Yes. But, being too attached to the result: No.
Rarely Have We Been Completely Broken
When we look back through life, only in reflection can we clearly see that rarely have we been completely broken. But in advance of the event, we spend countless hours, emotion and energy worried about outcomes—good old Fear and Anxiety again—which are inevitably out of our control. Mark Twain captured it best when he said, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
Sometimes, our attachment to an outcome or an emotion may last far longer than the experience itself. It’s a reality of life, but not helpful. As time passes, we can see that the resistance to prior events that troubled us proved ineffectual. Besides being out of alignment with the inevitable course of events, the expressions of Fear or Anxiety likely came at a huge cost on a personal level, as well as to our teams, relationships and loved ones.
More often than not, when we reflect on events we can see that some of our greatest “successes” came with unintended consequences; and that our greatest “failures” led to deep learnings or a more definitive mindset.
Don’t Look Back in…
In my own life, many of my greatest professional learnings have emanated from my most difficult challenges. A million-dollar company law suit, a corporate turnaround and a number of difficult clients, for example. When I look back, in each case the learnings and the personal impacts shifted over time. Most importantly, because of the deep reflective work I do with coaching, the emotion I attached to the experience shifted over time, too.
While I still tend to see those challenges today as obvious, as predetermined and as naturally-occurring as a rock, I have only recently been able experience my emotions in a similar vein, without meaning or impact other than that which I chose to ascribe to it.
A Mindset of Non-Attachment
How much different—how much better—would your life look today if you already knew that whatever happens in the future probably won’t break you? What kind of internal peace would you experience if you knew that even the worst-of-the-worst would gift you with formative, positive and transformational learnings? Imagine eliminating, or at least greatly minimizing, the Fear and Anxiety in your life!
Removing unnecessary stress and psychological dissonance during an experience simply gives us… MORE.
More experience, more living life, more rooted feelings. More space to relax and be comfortable in our choices. More confidence to embrace a winning mindset that stands the test of time. More clarity to focus only on what is essential.
Non-attachment. It’s the mindset I continuously strive for in both good and bad times. It is a mindset that I’d ask you to consider and reflect upon, maybe bring into your life. It’s hard work but it’s worth the effort.
Live forward the way you look back. It just may lead to a more purposeful and happier life.