Is Looking Back a Waste of Time? What Do You Really Need From the Past?

I’m not really one to wax philosophical just because because it’s the end of another year.  I think we all have points in time in which we stop to reflect and take measure of how far we’ve come and where we want to be.  The end of the year, the beginning of a new one, both often call upon us for reflection and measure.


My question though is, “Why?”

What are we doing when we reflect? Are we looking to better ourselves or berate ourselves?  Are we looking to compare or celebrate?

When I look back I often think of friends lost, milestones, celebrations and those events that took my life on a path I may not have imagined.  I do not, however, spend time wishing things were different.  Do you know why? Because they can’t be and to waste precious time imagining them so steals from the future and changes nothing.

The only time worth visiting in the past, in my opinion, are times in which you learn from and times that give you joy.  Everything is else is a waste of time to visit.  Again, just my opinion.


Education and joy.  Those are the only reason to look back.  The same could be said about books.  Why do we keep going back to the same books?  Because we learn from them and want to keep learning or stay reminded of those lessons, or because the story brings us joy.

Now, what if we apply this “Education and Joy” theory to other parts of our life?  Do you have a cluttered closet? A “junk drawer”?  Do you have hundreds of books lining shelves in several rooms?  Do you wish things were less cluttered in your life? No matter what it is, books, clothes, shoes, tools, if you want to simplify your life look at each thing and ask yourself, “Does this educate me in a way in which keeping it is beneficial to my life?” or ask “Does this thing give me joy?”  Don’t keep something because it is sentimental, keep it because you get great joy from it or learn from it. Otherwise, it’s just taking up space, causing you guilt when you look at it because you keep it out of obligation not joy and you know it.

I’ve slowly but surely started de-cluttering my life.  Not because it’s the end of the year.  Not because it’s some New Year’s resolution.  I am doing it because I don’t need things to inspire my memories.  I don’t need things to remind me I am loved or that I love others.  If my house burned to the ground and all my dogs and family were okay I would miss a few things, but I would not be devastated by the loss of any one material item.  I’ve actually lost everything I owned once and though I miss a few things, I hardly recall what the other things were.  Mostly, I just want a simpler life filled only with things that help me grow and educate me, or give me joy.

Let me ask you something?  If you could only save three things from your home, given that all the people and animals are already safe, what three items would you take?  Why?

Do you look back and hold on or do you find little time for reflection because you’re time is spent on today and the future?


About Sheila Clover English

International speaker, business woman, author, mother, wife and owner of seven dogs. I love people, am an advocate for animals and stay up too late at night reading books.
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2 Responses to Is Looking Back a Waste of Time? What Do You Really Need From the Past?

  1. Mary Hughes says:

    Hi, Sheila,

    I totally agree. One of the best phrases I learned in work is “next time we’ll do…”. Too often people focus on what “should have been”, which is impossible, lol. Sure, I wish to do and be better, so I apply myself to the only things I can change, my actions and the present. Thanks for this post!

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    Sheila, what a great post! I never thought about it this way, but I’ll remember this.

    If I could save three things, it would be my tablet, my purse (which might be cheating, since it has more than three things in it), and the wedding picture of my mom and dad.

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