Looking Back and Looking Forward

Last week I wrote a little bit about the arbitrary nature of using the New Year as some sort of start date for self improvement. (Here)

And while I stand by the sentiment that January 1 is no more or less momentous than any other day on the calendar for making a change, I will also say that if you need that kick in the pants, or that structured scheduling, and you make it your habit to follow through, there’s no reason why it it’s not a perfect day to make a positive change.

Another agenda item the month of January offers many of us is a perfect point to reflect on the previous year. If you’re inclined to blogging, or journaling, or even take notes on a calendar, then you have a great opportunity to reflect on what worked and didn’t work, the highs and lows, the triumphs and the setbacks, to take stock, to regroup, and to adjust goals moving forward.

My wife and I meet with a lot of doctors throughout the course of any given year, and often our versions of what came out of those meetings (or even what prompted them) is different even a week or two after the fact. Our daughter’s responses to therapy or medication, to changes in routine or new therapists are often lost or made less clear in the sheer “muchness” of her schedule.

The benefit of writing notes or blogs or journal entries to capture this sort of stuff is clear even a week later as we reflect on what we wrote down at that moment and remember things that we’d already forgotten. The further benefit of reviewing all these things annually is that the little changes captured by our notes sort of blur together and fade from memory when left unexamined.

The little changes we see day to day start to look not so much like progress, but stasis. Let me try to explain better:

Every day I look at Lily and every day she looks exactly the same. It’s only when I look at pictures of Lily from a year ago that I see how much she’s grown. It’s not that I’m not observant. It’s not even that I don’t remember how far she’s come necessarily. It’s just that the slow, incremental growth and change of a year’s development is practically imperceptible as a snapshot. It has to be viewed in relation to something else in order to be perceived.

You can choose to reflect on the events of the year at any time, but who has time to look back when we’re so busy focusing on the next goal, on moving forward? It’s too busy around the holidays to indulge in that sort of reverie, but as the kids start heading back to school, and gelatinous schedules turn structured and rigid once more, do yourself and your child a favor and look back on how far you made it over the past year.

And after you look back, celebrate the positives, and use your examination of the negatives to help craft more informed goals looking forward.

About Jim

Jim is a happily married father of two daughters, one autistic, one not. He writes about autism, parenting, and his busy family life at Just A Lil Blog when his busy family life allows.

14 thoughts on “Looking Back and Looking Forward

  1. Wise words, Jim. I need to look back more often, my kids are growing so fast at the moment and I don’t take anywhere near enough photos or even stop to look at the ones that I do take. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. A very wise reminder, Jim! Too often we forget to look at how far we’ve come — and during the battle (with doctors, IEPs, therapy schedules, etc.) it’s nearly impossible to do so. Scheduling a time to reflect is a really great idea and it’s totally going on my calendar from here on out!

  3. I thought about this when I was looking through old posts to find something and saw a picture of Abby just six months ago. She seems like the same little girl. But she’s totally not. I’m glad I’m writing it down, but I forget to write down the milestones, first words, etc… A good reminder.

  4. Before the diagnosis, I was never good at writing stuff down. Now I write down everything. Put dates on pictures he’s drawn with a little note about the day.

    It really is the best thing about blogging – it’s an online journal of their progress. Whether we take the time to realize it or not.

    One thing that doesn’t change with Lily – she’s still got a fabulous sense of style.

    • I read your comment, “My brain is like slightly runny Jello. Like my brain.” which made me laugh because I thought you said brain twice and proved your own point.

  5. I definitely try to note the positives, but the examination of negatives in forming a new way to approach things today is harder for me. Necessary, though. Definitely much can be learned from what didn’t go well…

  6. Lily looks absolutely grown up in that new photo! She is so “darling” – (normally, I don’t use that word but it fits the picture!). It’s funny how in photos you can see changes, but if you read what you wrote before, you can feel the ‘mind-shift’ that seem to equal perspective and experience combining to form intellectual growth. Anyway, looking back to look forward is always a good idea. :)

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