by Sarah Haywood

Sometimes it takes an escape from the bubble of normal life, to discover what your normal actually is. It can be a holiday, a trip to visit someone, working in a new location, or just a day away from your normal company and routine. Stepping outside of our normal rhythm of life allows us to look back almost, and observe, as if from outside, what our day-to-day normal looks like. What we miss of it when we aren’t in the midst of it, and what we are relieved to have left behind, if only for a week, a day or an afternoon.

Looking back is essential for moving forward progressively and intentionally.

If we never look back, or take a moment to reflect, we lose perspective on where we are and where we’re going. We lose sight of the lessons we’ve learnt, the lessons we’re in the midst of learning and the lessons we still have left to learn.

If we do not reflect, we sleepwalk through life until we eventually get rudely awoken from our slumber as we walk into one of life’s obstacles smacking us in the face. These obstacles can appear in the form of decisions that we never made and which have unfolded without our say so; they can be opportunities missed because we never ceased them; they can be relationships faded away because we never invested in them intentionally; they can even be overwhelming realisations that we’ve not been ok for a long time, but have been oblivious to the unnecessary and heavy burden we’ve carried so far, for so long.

When we focus purely on the present we can justify ignoring bad habits, or putting up with difficult situations. We can put off decisions until an undefined future moment. We can even manage to ignore any need to dig deeper with friends or relationships – saying “things are fine for now”. Whilst being present is important – allowing only the present to matter to us or consume our full attention is a pitfall we should avoid.

I love to journal and reflect. Take at look at my blogs, they are all reflections on the past, dreams about the future and acknowledgments of where I’m at now. It comes quite naturally to me, yet it still has to be intentional. It still has to be prioritised. Why? Because it’s never easy.

How can we know if a past hurt has affected us, if we never look back on it and see how it’s shaped our decisions?

How can we know if experiences have incorrectly shaped our future expectations, if we never remember they even took place?

How can we see how we have grown in a certain gift or ability if we don’t track back to when we began to step out and learn, and plot our journey from then until now?

How can we realise talents and features of ourselves if we don’t think back and remember those moments people have encouraged us, and when we have heard words spoken over us that were not meant just for that moment, but to be remembered?

How can we understand how we’re actually doing, right now, if we don’t think about how we were doing a year ago, 3 years ago, maybe even 10?

Our lives are brilliantly vivid journeys, stories to be retold, experiences to be shared, and challenges to be overcome – entirely unique to us. However, if we never reflect on what has shaped us, and what has shaped our normal, how do we expect to be able to keep a check on what is sticking to us along the way?

How else are we to check what truths and lies have hitched themselves to us as we’ve been moving forward?

It took a short trip away to a new place to realise that how I’d been feeling for the past month was nothing like I’d been feeling before. I was burdened and stressed and didn’t feel like myself. I had treated it as temporary, not paying it much attention and dismissed it as something I just needed to ‘power through’. I never paused to emerge from my trench to properly survey where I was, and how I was actually doing. I had been so focussed on the present, on the task in hand, I had allowed no space to consider how I was doing – only what i was doing.

My normal had changed.

I had become overwhelmed, bitter, sensitive and increasingly introverted. I had failed to address that the task in front of me – if unchanged – was too much for me to handle. Too much for me to handle, that is, in my current state.

I needed a new normal.

I needed to change the game or move the goal posts – both of which felt like admitting defeat. But if I go through life considering any adjustment which makes me healthier, happier and generally calmer, to be a defeat – I am setting myself up for a life of unnecessary hardship and ill-health.

The past is often rich with lessons, wise words and experiences worth remembering. However, it is also often riddled with hurt, lies and disappointments. The trouble is we too often let the latter prevent us from taking a step back, surveying our journey, and learning more about ourselves now and who we are becoming.

Moods come and go. Stresses visit and can leave us in a short space of time. But on certain occasions, it’s worth looking at how we deal with them when they visit us. Or even asking if the current challenge you face is going away anytime soon, without you acting intentionally as you journey through it.

Reflect today. How are you doing? What’s your rhythm like at the minute – busy, quiet, stressful, lonely, exciting? Is there something you need to take up or let go of? Is there a pattern that keep reoccurring, or a reaction you keep having? Is it one that needs to change?

Do you need to find a new normal?

You can find the original post-and more from Sarah-here