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Eyes Straight Ahead

Kim Hight

Life Imitates Art Blog by Kim Hight

No Need to Adjust the Mirror

You Won't Need It For Long

Do you ever get rear view mirror syndrome? You know, when you're looking back more than you're looking ahead.

My driver's ed teacher used to have a saying, "The wind shield is exponentially larger than the rear view mirror for a reason - glance back occasionally, but keep your focus in front of you. Otherwise, splat!"

That's a really simple (and graphic) anecdote for a much more far-reaching and complicated concept.

Regrets really serve no purpose.

You either learn the lesson or you repeat it, but dwelling on something that can't be changed only serves to make you feel bad. And that ruins the present moment.

Occasionally, as an artist, I'll get a case of rear view mirror syndrome when I look at some of my earliest paintings. They're not as good as my later works because I hadn't learned many skills and techniques yet.

When I start picking those paintings apart, all it does is make me feel bad, dents my confidence, and saps my creativity in the present. And for what?

I could repaint them, but that would be going backwards. They need to be left in the past so I can have the creativity and energy to create something bigger, better, and more beautiful now.

But there is a trick to being able to take a trip down memory lane without letting regrets seep in.

Eyes Straight Ahead Blog by Kim HightIt's called acceptance.

It's an amazing thing to be able to look back on your past without judgement.

You get all the enjoyment without the regrets.

For example, when I look back at those old paintings, instead of finding all that's wrong with them, I remember how exciting it was to paint them, and how proud I was when I stepped back and looked at the finished product for the first time.

They were really good for me back then and when I dwell on that aspect, it's actually kind of nice to look back.

I accept that they are not up to my standards now, but I'm grateful for how much I've improved.

That takes all the negative energy out of the situation and actually makes me feel more creative, alive, and confident that my next painting will be my greatest yet. Now I'm looking forward again.

So the next time you find yourself fixated on the rear view mirror, stop and remind yourself that while looking back occasionally is fine, ultimately you're better off gazing out the windshield. Otherwise, splat!

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