You Cannot Drive Forward Looking in the Rearview Mirror

I saw a horrific scene recently. A passenger car smashed itself half way into the back of a school bus. Thankfully, there were no children on board, but the driver of the car was severely injured. When the driver was interviewed, she was asked what happened and she replied, “I was looking in the rearview mirror.” Doh!

I also see people doing this on the road of their life…

At a dinner party last week, a woman was telling stories of how her former husband had treated her, details about things he said, did or never did. Eventually I asked, “How long have you been divorced?” She replied, “Thirty-six years.” Before this series of tragic stories (she thought to be amusing) she was complaining about not finding ‘Mr. Right’ and being single for 36 years. Doh!

At the same dinner party, another guy told blow-by-blow stories about his high school football glory days and how popular and cool he was ‘back in the day.’ Yet, just earlier that evening he explained he was going to splurge in spite of his doctor’s urgent orders concerning his Type 2 Diabetes (from obesity). He once again was turned down for a job and he hasn’t made a child support payment in six months. (His former wife was the high school head cheerleader). Doh!

Look, there is nothing more damaging to your future potential than spending your present dwelling on the past. Whatever has happened is over. Glory or defeat, once the clock struck midnight, the day was done. You are reborn each morning, and who you are each day is defined by what you do that day and that day only. You are not your past. You are only your present and your present actions will determine your future.

Now, let the past instruct you so you can be wiser marching forward, but don’t let it continue to suck you backwards. Jim Rohn teaches to have your past be “a school master, not a club.” Let it instruct you, not continue to beat you down. Look back for lessons, not excuses.

Oh, and by the way, that degree you have hanging on your wall was deemed irrelevant within 18 months after graduation. What you have learned lately is what’s important. The dusty trophy on your shelf won’t pay your mortgage, time to get into today’s playing field of life and play with intensity. There is a great line I heard that says, “You can never obtain success, you can only rent it and the rent is due every day.”

It’s great to achieve, celebrate your victories and be proud of your accomplishments, just keep your eyes on the road ahead and not fixated on your review mirror or you too, might find your life accidentally smashed into an object you didn’t see just in front of you.

How do you keep from constantly looking in your rearview mirror of life?



58 responses to “You Cannot Drive Forward Looking in the Rearview Mirror”

  1. sometime i get fortunate and stumble on a site on a topic that gets my attention. Not always but this is exactly one of those sites. keep up the great work and i have bookmarked this site to find out whats new later on

  2. The best advice I was ever given came just recently… simple- succinct & poignant.
    BE PRESENT– that’s it. Just BE PRESENT. Acknowledge the here and now- live in the here and now- BE PRESENT!

    My Dad told me years ago– “there’s a reason the rear view mirror is smaller than the windshield” What is most important lies ahead– I would add to that– it also exists in the HERE AND NOW! GREAT post, Darren! Love it…

  3. Just a thought…. now is constantly on the move. what i do now, tomorrow will not be now, it will be history. We need to focus on who we are and what we do now, not yesterday or last week, or last year. i can learn lessons, but i cannot base my life on what i did

    excellent post

  4. What a great article title. It is so TRUE!! I started laughing when I read it…but the reality is that it can be hazardous to your life if you are always looking back at what yesterday wasn’t.

    T.G. I am one of those ‘been there, done that’ and now what’s next, kinda people.
    Maybe that’s the Saggitarius in me….who knows. I never make the same mistake twice because I learned and grew from every mistake I ever made. Isn’t that what mistakes are for? I mean what else would we do with them?

    My past is like a reference library for me. I go there a few times a day and sometimes more but most of the books I ever want to read are the ones that make me smile. Sure, there’s lot’s of junk there too but what is the point of spending time reading a sucky novel?

    Before I ever look in my rearview mirror, I ALWAYS check to see what is in front of me. I have made that mistake too where I took my eyes off the road and never again!

  5. Excellent counsel… drive forward… live in the present… plan for the future… learn from the past.

    Chris Allen

  6. An inspiring advice! Time is always marching creating new opportunities! Successful people board on the time train and grab every new opportunity it offers. I would keep the article in my in-tray for a quick glance early in the morning. It will give me inspiration for the day’s work. However, I think, we should sometimes give a quick glance in the “back mirror” like a vigilant driver. It would give us a chance to rectify our past mistakes, while concentrating the future.

  7. Hi Darren,

    Thank you for a great post. I definately have family members like that, what I do is love them from afar. My belief on past is that it has prepared you for your future, the lessons, the challenges, the hardships – all of it. It is important to be resilient and step out of your comfort zone. I say, YOUR comfy zone is not your friend. Embrace the lessons you have learned that allowed you to grow and shaped you and move on with your life. So many individuals are comfortable with their past so they talk about that instead of the present. I choose both my environment and my associations carefully so that I’m not exposed to people that will drain me. I focus on my goals on a daily basis and set growth measures for myself in specific areas and I make sure I learn something new everyday. :-)



  8. If not for the fact that I know I never talked to the writer of the story about the woman and her past relationship, I would think he was writing about me. For THIRTY YEARS, I could not stop thinking about (and on ocassion talking about it) how my husband abused me, physically and emotionally. I could not let it got and I refused to forgive him and the woman he ended up marrying. I could not and would not get emotionally attached to another man for fear of being abused and hurt again. Granted, no one ever hurt me like that again, but I also missed out on the possibility of enjoying a good relationship. By the grace of God, I just recently forgave everyone that hurt me back then and I am seeing some awesome breakthroughs in my life. I am actually looking forward to meeting this great man that God has chosen for me. My life has been on hold in so many other areas also, but I am now in the process of moving forward, letting go and making plans to start this afterschool program that I have been dreaming about for so long. Thanks for the article. It really hit home.

  9. Truer words have never been spoken! So much emphasis is on the “now” and “what could have been”…focus on the important things and what you can change; not what you “shoulda coulda woulda….”

  10. AMEN! John Maxwell’s quote says “Yesterday ended last night”. I use the rearview mirror analogy a bunch in talking with folks. If you don’t have a mirror and also look over your shoulder too much, you get a stiff neck. No accident required!!! In any event, I try to continue to look forward with goal setting and review. Life Plan is important, also, so that I always know that my eye is forward on the ‘prize’. It is important to celebrate wins, and learn from losses, but keep going forward! Thanks for sharing.

  11. Dear Darren

    Avery clear and loud message-great-

    I would only add there is no harm in looking back in the mirror before you start your journey and come on the road
    but once on the track keep looking forward.

  12. everyone of you have posted some very meaningful and relevant comments. thanks for sharing your thoughts. i appreciate all and have profited from reading each. you are all on a beautiful journey and i appreciate the time we’ve shared here in this moment in time. Peace be to each of you!

  13. This article was seriously my life statement. My “sermon” is the small word “BE.” Like blinders on a horse — consider the past as to the left of that blinder. it should be “blinded” from our present consideration. We should not allow it to hold us captive. Likewise the blinder to the right is our future that should not rule our today. Let the blinders remain to the past and future. Let us “BE.” (Please don’t tattoo it on body parts as several of my daughters friends have done after hearing my little mini sermon. LOL But, that would be a great mental thought to tattoo on our hearts, minds, and souls. Life is NOW.

    [DARRENHARDY] Thanks for the tattoo disclaimer, Lisa! A tattoo on our hearts, minds and souls is a much better and more effective reminder anyway, if you ask me. :)

  14. By keeping the mirror very small – there are only parts of the past that are relevant to the future that is coming towards us at blinding speed. Just take a peek every now and then but focus, focus and work on what is coming up. Today is the only thing we can change, we can’t change yesterday and we must prepare for tomorrow.

  15. You can never mover completely move forward when a part of you lives in the success or regrets of yesterday. I love the positive comments and thoughts that enrich my life and bring out the rainbows on a cloud filled day.

    [DARRENHARDY] Nicely stated, Sandie. I like that you mentioned successes of yesterday, too. Many only consider the act of dwelling on regrets or negative experiences as living in the past, but you can just as easily get hung up on your past SUCCESSES and forget about living today (just like the old high school football star.) Thanks for reiterating!

  16. This article used to describe me to a tee; constantly rehashing so-called failed moments in my life. I can’t say how much my life has changed for the better since I started reading books by Jack Canfield, John Maxwell, Norman Vincent Peale, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, the Bible and SUCCESS magazine. I turn 50 at the end of this year but instead of focusing on the big 5 – 0, I instead focus on what I can do today to make my life and the people around me better. I’ve learned there is no failure — only feedback.

    [DARRENHARDY] Paul, so glad you changed your life for the better and are now focusing on the wonders and joys of here and now. Amazing how much insight those men (and magazine!) can add to your life if you are willing to give them a chance! Thanks for sharing your story with us!

  17. What a fantastic post! For those of us working hard every day to make this day better than the last, Amen! Thank you Darren.

  18. We get so busy searching our past and hoping for the future, that we forget to live in the moment. Living in the moment, is what brings us true happiness. This is what we call transformation. Change is something we do over time, but transformation is instantaneous. It’s what we choose right now and we all know that what we choose right now, will impact our future in a good or bad way. So lets choose good. Savor every moment given to you today, to experience life, to take action, to be yourself. When one lives with awareness, one is self empowered and becomes more productive, effective and satisfied. When you are present and centered in the moment, is when you experience well being regardless of the circumstances. It’s good to plan your day, but when you have those unexpected “nuances” or what I like to call serendipity moments, embrace them for it is in the nuances where the richness of life is born.
    I’ll give you one good tip – The act of listening pulls you into the moment, and the moment is where transformation begins.

  19. this happens all the time! we hear the same stories over and over again! some people have not learned how to move forward, leave the past behind, live! this is a very good article, thank you very much…

  20. Darren,

    I really appreciate this article! It stirs many thoughts within me. One is how long I have looked back at a former girlfriend and our time together.

    I loved her a great deal and my heart has been “stuck” there even though I have known some women since that time. Miriam’s answer and quote from the New Testament is interesting as I have been learning lately that I can pray for her well being, as I look forward to a future with someone else.

    I also like the things Jim Rohn said, what a great teacher he is.

    Thanks for this! I’m getting a subscription to the magazine next week!

  21. Very good article. As I approach my 50’s I find myself pontificating to the younger
    members of my team. I think it’s time to create new successes today! I have one more
    observation…You need to go to different Dinner Parties!

    [DARRENHARDY] LOL! Thanks for the observation, Carl! But if I went to different dinner parties, where would I get such great material to share with all of you?! :)

  22. Absolutely!!! We only have today–we actually only have the moment–the past happened, the future is not here yet.

    I am always amazed when I talk with people– they are stuck in that past moment. The past is a story and it is my belief our stories may be interesting to us but are not necessarily interesting to others. What is the purpose of living in the past? It cannot be resurrected.

    Thanks for the reminder that life is basically short and the past does not belong in the present!

  23. This is right out of Phillipians 3: 13-14. So Amen to that Brother Darren!! Another way to put it is to “Accept your past, Honor your present, and Believe in your future”, a motto I’ve finally learned to live by.

  24. Thank you for that wise reminder. I’ll take this to heart and today I will choose to live in today, learn from yesterday and move on. Its tempting to repeat the fears of the past, but I know its not worth it. In the spirit of moving I’m choosing to embrace the possibility of good and wonderful things. Thank you for the push.

  25. Thanks alot for sharing this timeless wisdom with your readers. I have all along held this kind of view however, one thing I have found intriguing is the fact, rather, the irony of life that “life is only understood backwards yet it must be lived foreward”. What is the colour of future? Is is white, blue, red, yellow, etc, etc? If you can give us some definite spectrum for this then the difficulty shall be over. I am happy of my now, this moment, at this second, minute and space, however, I am not aware of the next second, minute and space. What are they and in what future do they portend? If I am no more in the next second, is the future still there? If true it will be there, then whose future shall it be? Just wondering aloud. Thanks

  26. Wow I read this I and understand.
    There are some texts or messages that are perfectly a direct message to us but only when we feel that’s true for ourselves.
    So according to this I want to share one experience that happened to me a week ago which is very simple. I was on a train backing home, I was listening my favorite musics and whatching the sights from the window… I was a little distracted about things inside the train. At a certain time the reviewer man came to me asking to show him my train card like is normal. So I stayed I little surprised, and after of finding my card on wallet I showed it to him but at this time he was whatching other people card’s. I thought he saw my card so I put it back on my wallet. Some seconds later the rearviewer man was asking me again to show him my card. Ok, I showed again and said to him very friendly that I had thought he had whatched it. This is the time when he said very fast to me that only means he saw only when he says “Thank you”.
    These words are a signal that means he saw.

  27. Success will not come to have to make it happen…every single day!
    thank-you for such a strong message Darren

  28. Thank you! Thank you! I am so tired of people talking about what they use to do! Who cares? What are u doing now?

    [DARRENHARDY] Nicely said Cassandra! And you’re very welcome. Always my pleasure to share a bit of myself with all of you.

  29. This is right on the money again, Mr.Hardy! (-: So very timely and meant to be heard by me (and apparently many others..) I NEED to push “past the past”(pun intended) and dig into my here and now so that my tomorrow will be what I want it to be! Starting tomorrow I will remember these words and start being…again. One needs to focus and be AWARE of the thoughts and feelings that come from past negative “things” and put them in Les Brown says…talk to yourself and say “no more…no more more fear…no more!” Replace all that with “Yes, I can and I will” everyday…it is truly something we need to wake up and conquer everyday of our life..the rewards can be amazing! Thanks again for the reminder, Darren…

    [DARRENHARDY] Keep on pushing “past the past” Rico! Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and intended puns) with us!!! :)

  30. Sometimes the past pinions you so strongly, it is difficult to move forward. Much energy is wasted daily just to sedate the past. Thus, less energy remains to sally in life.

  31. This morning in my English class our teacher told us that she’s afraid of dogs. I asked why, and she said because when she was 6 years old she was bit on the nose by one, on two separate occasions. She’s now almost 70, and she complains that when she retires she won’t be getting enough social security. Doh!

    Excellent article Mr. Hardy.

  32. Thank you very much for revealing so much in such a short article. The discipline to focus on current positive thoughts and activities is slightly harder then our natural pull towards past events and accomplishments. Your report reminds us to stay alert and work on being more confident so we will put ourselves in a position to make real progress towards our goals.

    [DARRENHARDY] Well said Jon!

  33. Thanks for the reminder. I prefer going forth with a light load. Carring the past around with you can get pretty heavy. Let’s lighten the load, leave all unnessary baggage behind. If it is not going to benefit me then I don’t need to bring it along on my journey through life.