Conversations at the Crossroads.

Looking Back to Move Forward

A few weeks ago, I took a Sunday night yoga class to stretch, relax and get my head on straight about the week ahead. It hadn’t been a stressful weekend, but at the end I nonetheless felt anxious. There were intentions that I’d set for those two days—tasks, errands and correspondence—that I hadn’t fulfilled. So my anxiety derived from frustration about my lack of productivity, plus concern about how and when I’d manage to get those things done once the new week began. Amidst these feelings, the yoga class seemed like a good way to settle down.

Like most yoga classes, we started slowly and then progressively increased the pace of our movement. Thus, after about 45 minutes, I was sweating, tired and trying to catch my breath. As usual, I found myself wishing I’d been to class more often, and that I’d been more disciplined about using the gym to stay strong, so that the class wouldn’t feel so challenging.  These thoughts ran through my head as I quivered in downward facing dog: frustration about my weekend now coupled with additional frustration about the class.

Then, unexpectedly, the yoga teacher said something that really grabbed me. She said, “Pause here and check in with yourself. Recognize that you made it to this moment….” She spoke further, but this was all I heard.

“You made it to this moment.”

I’m not sure if anyone else in the class felt it, but to me this statement was significant. Perhaps it was just timing, given the emotions that I was feeling already, but I’ve honestly been thinking about that statement ever since.

We talk a lot these days about how important it is to be “in the moment” or to “stay present.” It makes so much sense–focusing on right here and right now–and yet… it’s really difficult to do, right? It’s our nature to reflect on past events, thinking about opportunities we believe we have missed and goals we have not accomplished. Sometimes there is regret associated with these thoughts. I should have done things differently.And, if you’re like many of us, sometimes those regretful thoughts are followed by a quiet scolding for being too focused on the past anyway. It’s a vicious cycle, and it doesn’t feel too good. It certainly doesn’t help us to move forward.

In six words, however, “You made it to this moment” gives us permission to look back and reflect, and it gently urges us to recognizeall that we actually have accomplished to get to where we are. It’s something we don’t do often enough. Probably because it’s so much easier to spout off a list of should-have’s and could-have’s. But making a practice of giving ourselves credit, however hard it seems and especially when we’re anxious about something, might give us the boost we need to feel better about where we’re at. And simply feeling better helps in all sorts of ways.

I know for certain that I felt more energy for the rest of the yoga class after that nudge. I let go of judgment and regret and focused on doing the best that I could.

YMITTM. You made it to this moment! It could be a new mantra, and a particularly useful one at this start of a new year, when all around there is talk of both looking forward and looking back.

Why not try it this month? When you’re feeling energetically low, mulling an area where you’re stuck and wanting more, shift your thinking to consider all that you’ve done to arrive at this moment. When you move away from judgment and regret, where do you find yourself? How does giving yourself a little credit change what you feel capable of accomplishing next? If you have a story to tell about your efforts, I would love to hear it.

Wishing you a happy 2013,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published January 3, 2013