It was Soren Kierkegaard who said, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
The power of hindsight is incredible. Only then it seems can we reflect on the choices we made, realizing where and when we made a wrong (or right) turn at Albuquerque that set us onto a different path and changed our futures forever.
In The Re-Patterning Project, I assign participants the homework of making a timeline of all the events they remember in their lives between the ages of zero and eighteen, and in particular with their major caregivers, like their parents and close relatives, and later on with teachers, authority figures, and peers. I first learned this exercise from Neil Strauss while participating in his immersive research for his book The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships, but the more and more I go through it with folks, the more I believe it’s foolish to stop it at age eighteen, as though legal adulthood confers some mysterious finish line before us where we now become immune to taking on more patterning, set in our no longer neuroplastic ways. So I now tell participants that if they really want to have a badass overview on their life, they can continue the timeline exercise up to the present day, and when they do, they usually see their patterning continue to expand, adapt, and snowball.
One reason the timeline exercise is so powerful is because it allows us to understand our life backwards, a la Kierkegaard, in great clarity. We see where a remark from a parent or teacher shaped a belief about ourselves, which we then carried with us into the future, allowing that belief to take on more power through our confirmation bias by unconsciously selecting for the experiences that confirm our worldview. This makes the events of our life start to make sense in a bigger way, as we begin to see the onset and unfoldment of our patterns from a conscious, birds’-eye-view.
And when we take the time to do that, we start to see how our futures can be impacted by the choices we make in the present moment – especially now that we know we are free adults and can make our own decisions for ourselves (something that our unconscious drivers don’t always understand until we bring them into the light).
When we full integrate our past, we can begin to live fully in the present, and make conscious choices with the future in mind.
Recently I saw a meme (creator unknown) that read, “When people travel to the past, they worry about radically changing the present by doing something small. Few people think that they can radically change the future by doing something small in the present.”
From what I’ve observed, the conscious awareness conferred by the teachings of The Re-Patterning Project, for those who truly integrate them, gives people this ability: to know what choices to make in the present that will inform their future, whether they’re repatterning from a past imprint or choosing to create a new one in the present moment that will wildly change the trajectory of their future. Many graduates now have new businesses, passion projects, careers, and relationships that have sprung up in the wake of having integrated the coursework, all things they didn’t realize they were capable of or even wanted for themselves before they started. Some even increase their perception and pattern recognition so much that they begin to be able to reasonably predict the future based on what they see happening in the now, which makes living in the present a lot easier.
This awareness makes living your life forwards less like being stuck in a labyrinth, and more like doing a maze on a piece of paper.
Life may only be able to be understood backwards, but once we make the effort to understand it fully and consciously, we begin to be able to bring that same understanding into living it forwards too.