I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I drive a race car. It’s a silver 2001 Corvette Z06. Now, I’m not that knowledgable about the inner workings of cars – I leave all the maintenance to my husband, aside from filling it with gas – but, I do love to drive.
After receiving my race license 10 years ago, I had fun competing in a few different cars. Today, I’m not driving competitively, but during event weekends I get out on track a few times and then volunteer time working with new drivers.
Something we talk about with the newbies has been popping into my head lately in my everyday driving. We say to them, “Don’t drive your mirrors.” This means, don’t worry so much about what’s going on behind you that you can’t stop checking your mirrors. Focus on what’s ahead and drive your line.
A new driver can easily get overwhelmed with the amount of information they have to proces quickly; everything is happening so fast. One of the things they worry about is that they’re holding up faster cars. This takes away from awareness of what’s coming up, the proper line, and generally remaining relaxed, all while learning to push the car harder on each lap.
Even after 10 years, I struggle with this driving habit, on and off the track. Unless I have comfortably clear road around me, I catch myself over-checking my mirrors, and monitoring the closing speed of approaching cars. While using caution is always smart, I get distracted from my drive if I see a car even a half-mile behind, a dot in my mirror.
Then, the other day, the lightbulb went off. This is totally a metaphor for dwelling in the past. Metaphorically “driving your mirrors” means your mind is negatively occupied on things from the past, things we have no power to change. This limits any ability to absorb and process the present situation, or anticipate and plan for what’s coming.
Dwelling in the past robs you of a precious commodity: time. Dr. Robert Leahy explains it in this article: “When you are ruminating you are temporarily withdrawn from reality. You are not active, you aren’t socializing, you are not living in the present moment. You are somewhere else – in your head, in your thoughts, in a different time. You think you are ‘doing something,’ but you are not pursuing goals, nothing is happening, you are stuck.”
So, I ask you, are you “driving your mirrors?” Does some experience from your past have a hold on you so much that you replay it daily? Maybe it’s a past situation that hurt you deeply, or a person who made you unhappy, or you suffered a loss. Are you spending a major amount of time looking back, thinking, “Why me?”
The good news is, there’s hope of living free from your past. Letting go of the past takes practice. You can start by using the following method to begin replacing painful memories with positivity. Take a few deep breaths. Think about something or someone that you really love in your life right at this minute. Focus on your heart and the positive feelings you get when you recognize this joy in your present life. Now, begin to let go of that past hurtful situation. Practice this a few times a day, until your past begins to release its hold, and the positive feelings remain.
Recognize that you’ve survived your past – you’re a survivor – and you’ve accomplished so much since that painful time.
Remember, live the life ahead of you, not behind you. The open road is a blank slate of infinite possibility, and it’s waiting for you to begin your new adventure.
For more help with letting go of grievances, I highly recommend Dr. Fred Luskin’s book, Forgive for Good. He writes, “The practice of forgiveness has been shown to reduce anger, hurt, depression and stress and leads to greater feelings of hope, peace, compassion and self confidence.” Read his 9 Steps to Forgiveness here.