In Retrospect

I’m a big proponent of thinking in the now. When you future dreams have no connection to the present, they have no real chance of happening. Even more, I believe that your actions, goals and dreams shouldn’t be focused on getting to some arbitrary future landmark but so that you can experience growth in the present.

There is just one problem with this view. It can often be very difficult to see the growth and gains you are making in the present, if not impossible. Rarely have I experienced a moment in my life where I new I was growing. I only later realized that I had grown in retrospect.

So much has been written on the need to persist. People often give up way too early in the pursuit of their goals and dreams and they give up for the wrong reasons. But I believe the reason that persistence can be so difficult isn’t because of a lack of self-discipline or willpower. I believe it is because it is very difficult to see the growth you are achieving while you are taking action.

Growth and purpose are the fundamental keys to happiness. The feeling that you are improving your life and that this improvement has a meaning. However, if you can’t experience growth in the moment, it can be too easy to give up. So how do you keep going and persisting even when you are blinded to any results you are making in the moment.

The answer is to start by looking back at your past. Even though you can’t experience the feeling of growth in the present, you can see its after-effects over the past weeks, months and years. Even though I don’t notice myself making giant steps in improvement, all I need to do is scroll back through my memories of the past to see how far I’ve come.

Take some time out each day to look through your own past and notice the growth and purpose that you are working so hard towards. There may be some areas of your life where improvement has been sharp and dramatic and others where it has been quiet and slow. Not only does doing this help provide you with a direction for your future growth but it motivates you to keep going.

What if you haven’t been improving or improvement has been slow? The answer to this is to have faith in the future. Time is going to pass anyways, so you might as well be investing it in your own improvement. Many areas of growth have a tipping point so that an incredibly slow increment of improvement eventually leads to a huge windfall.

Take a few moments and look back at where you were a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago. Where have you improved and gained from the experiences in that time?

Now look ten years into the future back at your current self. Where have you improved upon your current standing?

If you are finding yourself getting frustrated at a lack of progress, just remember that growth can’t be experienced directly, only noticed in retrospect.

  • Mike

    Scott, I think there is *much* to be said for being “in the present.” I sometimes will take a three day getaway to a nearby hotel solely for the purpose of fully being in the now – with no distractions. In fact, I have found some of my better life choices have been made during these getaways. One, was a major epiphany. I like this definition:

    1. A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something.
    2. A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization: “I experienced an epiphany, a spiritual flash that would change the way I viewed myself” (Frank Maier).

    Many major life changes seem to happen with these flashes of insight. In fact, an epiphany can truly only happen while being in touch with NOW.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Mr Funk

    Thanks dude, I needed to read that, very timely.

  • Scott Young

    Thanks Mike and Mr Funk.


    That’s great to hear. I believe epiphanies are great when you have them, but they aren’t necessary for most progress. Most people have enough information, they just need to start taking action.

  • Roy Carlson

    Good advice. Reflecting back on our past to see our future is the best way to see where all of our efforts have gotten us in life. I think everyone should take some time out of everyday to better appreciate that effort and themselves. It would make a lot more positive world.

    P.S. You write very well, you’ve inspired my own blog as well as my personal development.

  • Scott Young


    Gratitude is crucial. Glad to see I’ve persuaded someone down the path of personal development. Good luck to you and your blog!