Why You Need to Look Forward AND Look Back

Are you the kind of person who always looks forward and never looks back? Or maybe you spend your time regretting the past. Find out why you need to do both. #forward #goals #afteractionreview #plan #planning #assessment #progress

Are you the kind of person who always looks forward and never looks back? Or maybe you spend your time regretting the past. Find out why you need to do both.

This post is part of the Five-Minute Friday quick write hosted by Kate Moutang. Join us each Thursday night on Twitter (#FMFParty) for fun and fellowship, then grab a pen and start writing when the prompt goes live!

Are you the kind of person who always looks forward and never looks back? Or maybe you spend your time regretting the past. Find out why you need to do both. #forward #goals #afteractionreview #plan #planning #assessment #progress

Can I Just Move Forward?

“If a student understands all the Level 3 items, can they move forward to Level 4?” a teacher asked the trainer.

“And if a student can answer the Level 4 question on the test, does she need to go back and do all of the questions for levels two and three?” I asked.

Unfortunately, we asked our questions via chat on a Zoom training, and the educational expert never answered our questions. But the questions and the training had me thinking about looking forward and looking back.

Would you qualify yourself as a ‘never look back’ sort of person? You move forward to each new thing or experience with anticipation and excitement. You block out memories of past shortcomings or failures so as to not ruminate on them.

Or do you see yourself as a ‘looking back’ sort of person? You overanalyze the past and its repercussions for the present. The past feels like a hand reaching up from the deep pulling you down. You feel adrift and aimless because all your energy gets sucked up by the backdraft.

For most of my life, I effectively cut my failures off at the knees and ran forward to the future without them. Unfortunately, that means I didn’t take the opportunity to learn from my mistakes. Which means I repeated plenty of them.

In my quest to becomes a better version of myself, I have started to employ the after-action review technique in my life. I especially do this in regards to my goal-setting journey. Looking forward helps me clarify my goals, and looking back shows me what has hindered my progress or helped my progress.

How Looking Back Constructively Can Help You Move Forward

In the past, I used looking back as a weapon to beat myself up with instead of a springboard for growth. For example, I often failed to grade all the papers in a timely manner. Now, instead of just beating myself up, I look back and analyze WHY I failed. I didn’t grade the papers because:

Are you the kind of person who always looks forward and never looks back? Or maybe you spend your time regretting the past. Find out why you need to do both. #forward #goals #afteractionreview #plan #planning #assessment #progress

1). Grading papers often bores me.

2). I put off grading them until the end of the day.

3). My energy level falls at the end of the day along with my tolerance for tedious tasks.

These insights helped me see that if I wanted to accomplish my goal of grading papers in a timely manner, I had to change my schedule. Now, when I have important papers to grade, I do them early in the morning.

I look forward to my reward (sense of satisfaction for completing a tedious task and worry-free time to relax in the evening) as I grade the papers. Of course, sometimes I still have to reward myself with dark chocolate when I finish grading each essay in order to keep going.

If I never look back, I fail to learn. When I never look forward, I can drift aimlessly and just feel dissatisfied.

Never looking forward can set you adrift. Never looking back can prevent you from learning. #goals #afteractionreview #fmfparty Click To Tweet

Have you ever used an after-action review process on yourself?

12 Comments

  1. Most of my life was fubar, and the future really sucks. I’m staying in the Now.

    Don’t look forward, don’t look back,
    stay here in the day.
    Don’t give in to hell’s attack,
    for Satan finds a way
    to desecrate what you have been,
    to place tomorrow in the mire,
    to reframe that which you have seen,
    to burn hope in the fire
    of everything in which you failed,
    of all where you fell short;
    he’ll incarnidine the seas you sailed,
    and you, with no retort
    will ask God why you had to yield,
    unlike the lilies of the field.

  2. Yes, we need to learn by looking back and evaluating actions, thoughts etc. all to help us move forward in more constructive ways! Thank you.

    1. In all honesty, they usually take me 10-15 minutes to write (and another 30 minutes to do the graphics). This one took ten because I’ve been thinking about the substance of the topic for quite some time.

  3. I struggle with being a “The past feels like a hand reaching up from the deep pulling you down. You feel adrift and aimless because all your energy gets sucked up by the backdraft.” kind of person. I am learning to accept that my identity is not dependent on perfection and recognize that God redeems all things.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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