Backward or Forward – How Will You Live 2021?

Teaching your teenagers to drive is not for the squeamish. 

(And all the parents said, “Amen!”)

Years ago, I had a friend whose 15 year-old got his learner’s permit. Like every teen, he wanted to drive his parents everywhere. However, each time the boy got behind the wheel he would obsess over what was in his rearview mirror. Sometimes the young man would get so preoccupied with the cars coming up behind him, he’d have to slam on his brakes to keep from plowing into the cars that had slowed down in front of him!

“Your rearview mirror is only for glancing,” my exasperated (and terrified) friend would say. “Your windshield is for LOOKING. Focus on what’s in front of you.” 

I don’t know if staring at the rearview mirror is why the boy one day pulled into his carport and drove straight into the living room wall. I just know my friend aged about ten years over those months.

As silly as it sounds, many of us live our financial lives this way. Though we are barreling inexorably towards the future, our focus is on our past, as if the past held the only key to our future. 

Backward focused living comes naturally for most people. It’s easy to do. All you need is memory. Unfortunately, many of our most vivid memories involve pain and loss, and the fear such things generate. Spend your life gazing in the rear-view mirror, and you can get stuck there.

Before you know it, you’re quarantined in a “non-growth mindset,” tethered to the person you were 10 or 20 years ago.

Some consider backward focused as “more responsible.” After all, it’s rooted in history…it’s based on verifiable facts and events that have definitely occurred. And doesn’t history repeat itself?

To be sure, the past is verifiable. It’s full of facts. One only has to look back to 2020 to see certainties like COVID-19, violent protests, economic swoons, and political cynicism.

What about the other option—looking forward, through the windshield? A forward focus sets us free from the limitation of what did happen. It shows us the exciting possibilities of what could happen.  

Now, to be sure, there is a cheap imitation of forward focused living that is little more than lazy daydreaming. I’m not talking about that. 

I’m talking about a healthy, forward focus that learns from the past but refuses to be bound by it. The past is full of what you can’t do (or undo) and what you can’t be. 

Forward focused living sees what is possible. It’s willing to put in the hard physical, emotional and even spiritual work to see that imagined future shaped into reality. 

Are you still focused on 2020 and all the painful memories it etched into your psyche?

I understand. And I think it’s okay to glance in the rearview mirror briefly every now and then.

But if you want to make real progress, turn your focus to what’s ahead in 2021. Consider the bright future you can help shape and create for yourself this year.

On that note, I’ve written a short e-book The Three Financial Questions You Should Be Asking for 2021. If you’ll email me at, I’ll send you a free copy right away.

Argent Advisors, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. Please See Important Disclosure Information here.

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