Moving forward by looking back

Marianne Delorey of Colony Retirement Homes talks about  looking back and forgiving yourself instead of making new year's resolutions.
Marianne Delorey, Ph.D.

By Marianne Delorey, Ph.D.

The greatest hero is not he who subdues nations, but he who conquers himself.

~ John Jeffrey

It is a new year. Instead of making resolutions for the upcoming year, I am going to suggest we all make restitution for the previous years. This does not necessarily mean you have to pay back that $5 loan you borrowed from that coworker whose name you don’t remember, but rather start considering yourself worthy of your own forgiveness.

You have failed yourself. It doesn’t really matter how or why. We cannot live into our 50s and beyond without having failed our own goals or moral code at some point. I know we hate admitting our own hypocrisy, but let’s start by admitting we are all human and we cannot be perfect. Maybe you don’t listen to your doctor, and you eat too much junk food. Maybe you let your temper get the better of you and you snapped at your children. Maybe you judge your neighbor by the condition of their house, but your housekeeping isn’t perfect. Maybe you choose convenience over conviction. 

Lately, it seems the deck is stacked against us. Since COVID, getting coffee in a takeout cup instead of a reusable mug has been so much more justifiable. Since the pandemic, it seems everything has changed and I, for one, feel guilty all the time about what I could do better but just don’t. And it also seems that once you make one bad decision, it is easier to just coast than to start righting the ship.

But the new year is now and now is the time to make meaningful changes. But the changes cannot be prioritized. The first step is to actually forgive yourself for your role in not meeting your goals for the past. Pandemic or not, none of us need to carry that weight into the new year. Guilt bogs you down and prevents you from moving forward. 

It is important to remember that we are not done living at 50, 70, or even 90. We all have life left in us and we can all continue to live our best lives if we decide to move forward without the anchor of the past holding us in place or worse, dragging us down.

Once you decide to live, you are facing forward instead of looking backward. That is the time to set new goals, whatever they may be. And keep in mind it is never too late to be the person you want to be. Remember all the people who have achieved the extraordinary later in life.

  • Grandma Moses started painting in her 70s
  • Ina Garten wrote the Barefoot Contessa cookbook after 50.
  • Julia Child started cooking on her TV show in her 50s.
  • At the age of 74, Norman Maclean published his first and only novel, the 1976 best-selling book, “A River Runs Through It.”
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder published the Little House series of children’s books in her 60s.

And maybe none of us are going to be as famous as these people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be the best version of yourself. You are not done living and it is not too late for some fantastic new goals. Consider my two most recent heroes:

Maggie, who decided at 53 she would run a marathon. She trained hard for months and met her goal this past October.

And Debra, who decided with her wife to step up her fitness in their late forties and who recently was able to deadlift 195 pounds.

These two cases are extraordinary because they are not. Maggie and Debra are people like you and me. They just decided to set a goal and reached it. You may not see them in the history books, but they are my personal heroes – great examples of later-life ladies whom I can aspire to be more like.

For 2023, make your resolution to forgive yourself so that you can start being your best you.



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