I attended a retreat when I was younger where the speaker talked about going on a journey in a car as a metaphor for life. As the driver of your life, you may have a map or route in mind and see the road ahead. Every once in a while, you look at your rearview mirror. While moving forward in life with your plans, it’s worthwhile to reflect periodically and look back at your life, your rearview mirror. However, no one drives a car long-distances by focusing ONLY on the rearview mirror. In the same way, to move forward with life, you cannot be stuck in the past.
As I’ve shared, I’ve been interviewing for new grad nurse positions. Some interviews have gone well, and some have not. I need to look back at my interviews to understand where I can improve and what I did well to move forward in future applications or interviews. However, it doesn’t serve me to beat myself up and ruminate over any mistakes I might have made. I can be overly critical of myself, but that’s crippling and doesn’t help me. It’s important instead to learn from my mistakes and consider what I can do differently the next time I encounter the same scenario. I suppose I needed reminders to not dwell on my shortcomings and be solutions-oriented instead – I have an important interview next week. Throughout this past week, I have noticed messages reminding me about how my focus determines my path.
My first reminder came in a reflection from a 2021 Lenten devotional I’ve been reading, “Embrace This Holy Season” by Joseph F. Sica. In the February 22 entry entitled “Getting Past the Past,” Joseph F. Sica shared:
“When you find yourself being drawn back into the pain and negative experiences, choose to focus on the present—on what is happening right now—and recognize that history is history. To get past your past, you need to accept it as it was and leave it there. Then pay deliberate attention to this moment—a time that’s never been before and is loaded with opportunities and possibilities. All you have to do is seize them.”
He then offers the helpful practice of taping the following quote to a mirror: “Never look back unless you’re planning to go that way.” It reminded me of the retreat speaker sharing the story about driving using one’s rearview mirror. While I wouldn’t suggest NEVER looking back, don’t be fixated on life’s rearview mirror.
My second reminder came in an email from Marie Forleo, an entrepreneur. She was talking about her relationship with her husband and shared the following:
“Human minds are wired to scan for what’s wrong, especially when it comes to our significant other. We criticize, correct, and attempt to control them. We’re quick to judge and point out (either in our head or out loud) what’s not working. My suggestion? Stop that ASAP. Where attention goes, energy flows. Make a commitment to keep looking for what’s right about your partner. Focus on what they did do, who they are as a soul, and what’s wonderful about them — then proactively and verbally acknowledge that to them consistently.”
While Marie Forleo was talking about relationships, her statement about energy going where our attention flows applies to life, in general. We can focus on mistakes we’ve made in the past, our shortcomings, or we can focus on our strengths and continual improvement. As someone starting over in my career, I need to acknowledge when I do things right because it is easy for me to self-criticize when I do something wrong or not exactly how I would have liked. I’m still learning and developing as a novice nurse, and I need to give myself some grace.
Finally, my third reminder came from Brene Brown, a researcher who focuses on shame and vulnerability. She has a podcast and had a guest, Dr. Edith Eger, discuss “Recognizing the Choices and Gifts in Our Lives.” Below is a quote from Dr. Eger that caught my eye while I was on LinkedIn:
I love the concept of finding an arrow and following it. We can’t move forward without an idea of our destination. Otherwise, we’re just wandering. If I make mistakes, after attempting to correct them, I need to know how to prevent them from happening again or improve myself. I’ve lived long enough to come to an understanding that God will present me with the same lesson over and over until I learn from it. Without a path to move forward, we may end up in circles.
Maybe you, too, needed gentle reminders to focus on moving forward. Perhaps you need to acknowledge your gifts and talents instead of dwelling on your shortcomings. Learn from your mistakes and move onward. Envision what you want, be assured of yourself, and head in that direction!