MHLbannersmallThoughts from the Chair: The key to improvement doesn't center on looking through the rearview mirror

One of my favorite radio personalities, Colin Cowherd from ESPN radio, is controversial, outspoken and funny. The on-air information he shares is also educational and reliable. It's why I enjoy listening to him while I drive.

WindshieldAlong with his other attributes, he has a succinct and meaningful philosophy of life that I think makes sense for all of us. It's an example of forward thinking that he expresses through the words, "People need to live their lives through the windshield of life and not the rearview mirror."
I take that to mean that while our past is important, and we can't change it, we do better not to dwell on yesterday but rather to focus on what we can change in the present to make the future better.

Once we accept this reality, we find ourselves in a steady state of improvement. Where we are positioned today in terms of our health, our fitness, our financial circumstances and our relationships is a culmination of all the decisions we made in our lives leading up to this moment. We can begin by accepting this circumstance, then analyze where we are in the areas we find important to us. After that, we can strive to make changes and improvements moving forward – if, in fact, that is our goal. By looking back through the rearview mirror we can evaluate how our decisions and choices led us to the present, and then use that information to modify our behavior and choices to improve our future.

Honor-your-past-but-dont-live-in-itThis glance-backward-then-focus-forward approach is especially important in the area of health and wellness. I am often guilty of looking back at the times I used to achieve while running as well as the weights I used to be able to lift and thinking (or dreaming) of meeting or exceeding those benchmarks. I am also quick to fall prey to the "poor me" syndrome when I become ill, injured or struggle to find my fitness. As I say this last sentence out loud to register its full effect my wife is adding, "Yes, yes and yes – at least you admit it!"

To get out of this habit, I have to first realize that I am dwelling on the past. Then I need to evaluate what I did in the past that led me to my injury, decline in fitness or, on a positive note, an increase in energy which I can usually trace to good nutrition and proper sleep. At that point, I set goals and keep my eyes forward (through the windshield) focusing on the daily positive choices that will lead me towards my goal of self-improvement.

The wonderful thing about the human body is its incredible ability to constantly adapt based on the stresses placed on it. To improve health these inputs of stress need to be experienced daily and consistently. As you look to the future, try not to "jump" too far ahead of yourself. Health and wellness changes take time, and for many of us, it's often too much time. Don't look back and think about how you used to lose weight quicker or could walk/run at a certain pace/distance in a shorter time period.

That kind of unproductive thinking is a sure ticket to failure. If changes are made properly with a daily focus on improving those areas where you need improvement, you will see the fruits of your labor moving forward. You will find yourself improving a little bit each day, and the positive reinforcement from this change will help you stay committed and focused on your personal goals.

look-forwardSo that's what I take from the message of an ESPN radio personality… keep looking forward and watch your life transform. Be consistent, start small and accept the pace of your current improvement not your past accomplishments. Keep your focus on the windshield ahead, and remember, this metaphor becomes a reality when you're behind the wheel of a car!

Look back through the rearview mirror to see what happened in your past, then use that information to look forward through the windshield and live your life in the present.

Stay healthy my friends,


Chair – My Healthy Lifestyle Employee Wellness Committee

(Editor's Note: In addition to serving as Chair for the Employee Wellness Committee, Daniel Ballin is the Administrator of Riverside's Therapy Group, Wellness and Outpatient Services and oversees all of Riverside's therapy services along with Riverside's Wellness and Fitness Centers in Newport News and Gloucester.)