Why are we advised to never look back? Growing up, I remember hearing that phrase a lot, “Don’t look back, or you will never move forward.” I’m paraphrasing of course, but in cartoons, movies, and in school it was not hard to find or hear someone or something preaching that philosophy. Naturally, though, when you tell a child they can’t do something, what happens? They usually do it anyway. Why is that?
I find it odd that on one note we are told to never look back, and on the next beat we are told to learn from history, or learn from the mistakes of others or ourselves. Those two philosophies kind of cancel each other out, don’t they?
In fact, if you type “what is the meaning behind never look back?” you will come across dictionary sites that define that statement as, “to become increasingly successful.” How can that be?
Looking at Mr. Disney’s quote, of course I glean from the message that we must keep moving forward in order to find new opportunities, new ideas, etc. However, I can’t help but notice the first sentence of the quote, which is usually not included in certain publications, “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long.” Without that first sentence, to me, the rest of the quote means nothing.
Walt does a good job of surfing between two ideals by including that first line. The key is to not focus on the past, yet to acknowledge it and continue with the knowledge of past experiences as a guide to help you find a more prosperous path. For if we forget what we have already endured how are we to keep from falling into the same traps that may have snared us in the past. Sometimes a glimpse into our past will give us new insight into life, or maybe a recent event has enlightened your mind to look back and understand a past incident more clearly.
This philosophy is carried out in many Disney movies, one of them being The Lion King. The motto shared by some of the characters is “Hakuna Matata.” A Swahili phrase, it means, “no worries,” and is further explained by one of the characters, Timon, that when the world turns its back on you, you gotta turn your back on the world. It’s a mentality that is easily adopted by Simba, the protagonist of the story. Yet he eventually realizes how easy it is to forget who we really are without accepting your past, and unfortunately, sometimes, we need to look back to accept or get over things we’ve experienced only to grow into something more. Ultimately, Simba faces his past and becomes king, like his father before him.
When we hear about opening doors, it is easily forgotten that the past is on the other side of one. It’s only right behind us, out of sight, out of mind. Only when we become curious will we open that portal and only then will we have the right state of mind to move forward and conquer the path that lay ahead.
By: David Joseph Leingang