We must look back in order to move forward.
We are all familiar with this concept.
We go to a counselor and expect them to arouse emotions and events from our past to help us create a better self for the future. We look at the distraught lives of our friends and wonder why they cannot see the repeating pattern of hurt, stress, emotional pain and heartache that shapes their lack of happiness over and over again.
But, the problem is we can’t as easily see these patterns in our own lives. We are our own blind spot. The parts of us that we struggle with the most, wish most to change, are the hardest for us to see clearly.
So how do you make the most difficult parts of yourself more visible to yourself?
You must first start by understanding that clarity is not the same as clairvoyance.
Clairvoyance is attempting to perceive or predict your future. In theory, if you could see your future, you could ensure you sidestep mistakes and walk straight towards the positive.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have this superpower.
This is where clarity comes in. Clarity can be likened to wisdom. To be able to see the events of your life as they truly are. If you have clarity, you have 20/20 vision. No blind spots.
Study the past, if you would divine the future. ~ Confucius
Here’s the problem: Most people find that clarity in the moment is difficult to see.
Our past, however, is an easy story to deconstruct. It’s so much easier to look back to our past choices and see clearly. See where we went wrong. How things could have been different. “If only I had…”.
Step #1: Seek clarity from your past rather than clairvoyance about your future.
Start by identifying your blind spots.
You know they are there, but you often like to ignore they exist. They go something like this:
- I know last time I…, but this time will be different.
- If the other person had just…, I wouldn’t be in this mess.
- You’re right. I know. Why do I always do that?
- Next time I’ll do better!
We all have them, but usually only those closest to us can see them.
This requires us to slow down long enough to process our own behaviors. Time is your friend. Jumping right into that next relationship, that next job or the next “this is it” quick fix will just have you right back here 6 months or a year down the road.
Slowing down allows the blur of your life to come into focus.
Here’s a free Self-Clarity Worksheet to help you identify some potential blind spots in your life. Seeing these clearly can make all the difference for you in the new year.
But knowing is not doing.
Step #2: To be different, you must do different. Not just think different.
How we remember the past changes over time. As a result, our emotions about the past and the people in it also change. Simply remembering the embarrassment, stress, or hurt won’t ensure a different outcome in the future.
You’ve got to decide up-front, today what you will do differently.
Then, you’ve got to write it down. Put your emotions and thoughts onto paper before your brain alters the memory of them. Give yourself a set of actionable guidelines to follow while you are able to clearly see and learn from your past.
Once you are in a similar situation or the heat of the moment, it’s too late. Your blind spot sets in.
Go back to your Self-Clarity Worksheet.
Decide now what you will do differently in the future. Be specific. And use positive actionable steps, rather than the “do not”. For example:
- Write, “I will date someone for ____ months before…” rather than “I will not ____”.
- Write, “I will choose to _____ when someone at work _____” rather than “I will not _____ at work”.
- Write, “I will treat my kids…” rather than “I will not allow my kids to…”.
Try creating a list of 5 new behaviors for 2016.
But be honest with yourself.
The truth about you, seeing yourself and your past behaviors clearly is the only way you’ll ensure that 2016 will be better than 2015.
Flickr creative commons image courtesy of Mr. TinDC.