Life Can Only Be Understood Backwards – Søren Kierkegaard

Life can only be understood backwards:

life can be understood only looking backwards, when things dont work in our favour, not understanding where life is headed, self improvement and life tips, thought of the day“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

– Søren Kierkegaard

Life is a very tricky affair indeed. So many things keep happening around us that sometimes it is really hard to keep track of what is happening and more importantly why. The why makes us ponder so much that sometimes nothing seems to make sense at all. This especially happens around the time when we are down and the confidence is a little low.

Maybe the two are connected? Well honestly they are. We tend to look at things dependent on the state of our mind. Although on our previous posts, we have happily talked about the importance of focus on things we want instead of the things we dread, we do know and understand that it is not as simple as it sounds and it needs a conscious effort. And it is all going to be worth it.

Well, we are not going to talk about that today. For more information and discussion on that, our post on What we see depends mainly on what we look for is going provide an interesting thought process. Continuing on the train of thought,

Life can only be understood backwards – WHY?!

When something goes wrong, the first question that pops into mind is WHY?

  • Why is this happening?
  • What is the meaning of this?
  • Why does bad stuff happen only to me?
  • Why me? Why not someone else?

Funny thing is we never question anything when things go good. Maybe human nature, we are always on the quest to solve our problems. No wonder the negative premise gathers more attention.

Coming to the quote, we all have a grand plan about life. We all have a thought about what we want to do about our life, how our finances should be, how the society should respond to us, how others should make us feel and so on. We all have an idea, a thought as to what life can be and we would like it that way. But sometimes the universe seems to have a different plan for our lives and that makes us fumble a bit. Cos it is different from the plan, a little different from what we had thought about. But that’s the harsh truth right? – Life is never as simple and as true as our plan.

Life can only be understood backwards: When Things Don’t Work Our Way

And the brain does go berserk when things don’t work the way we want them to. And naturally so, none of us would like to see so many uncertainties in life. We would like it if it were simple, if things went the way we want them to. Maybe that’s the beauty of it cos the more we limit life to our thoughts, the more we limit to our possibilities. If you look back at your life and think of all those things you have done, I am sure you have done some wonderful things, some of which you would have never thought about.

Now, if you look back at those and ask yourself what they meant, why it happened, it all seems to fall into place very place. It all seems to make perfect sense, maybe it was a starting point for something else, something more meaningful which you and I had missed on. Maybe it was a better goal. Maybe it was a test to identify how badly you wanted something.

Life can only be understood backwards: It Is Not An Excuse

I am not preaching you or recommending being a fatalist in life.We don’t ask you to sit back and relax and let life take its own course. But we are asking you to believe in the hope of life, the hope of taking life under control and the hope of believing that something good is going to come out of your actions. The hope is not a replacement for your actions, but it is an impetus and a motivation to work more from that front.

As Steve Jobs said – you can’t connect the dots by looking forward, you can only do that by looking backwards and that starts to make some sense.

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We'd love to hear your thoughts below..

  1. The first thing that comes to my mind is the reach the destination game of the comics where we used to look backwards from the destination that which road is leading to the starting point and then starting from the beginning of that road. That’s a very unique and effective way of bringing hope.

    • Naaice :).. I haven;t come across the destination game Deeshani. Now that you mention it, I am quite intrigued to pick that up. Indeed Deeshani, hope is a very powerful motivator and if used well, it can give us great results.

  2. Hey Vinay, once in a depressed mood I twisted a quote -” the night is not as dark as it seems ” said Ruskjn Bond , I added , yeah, its darker.
    But deep down I knew that Bond is right , Hidden by clouds ,night certainly has the moon – luminous and lovely.
    Same here , looking forward things hardly make sense but on looking back ,one can most certainly see the pattern.
    The trick to find a happy pattern on looking back is to accept the future with best intentions and react according to your best abilities to it.
    Guess , we’ll leave wise and pleasant footprints then ….
    Nice post … Just a little longer than my comment 😀 hope you’ll forgive me for ranting 🙂

    • He he he he 😀 😀 .. Thank you Kokila, I have always appreciated longer comments, there is a lot more story to the comment which keeps us gripped too :). THat’s a really nice quote Kokila, life is never as scary as it appears to be, it either is a lot more scarier than that or a lot more neutral. But it is only our perception that makes a huge difference.
      You said it, the trick is to keep doing our best with the limited resources we have and things are bound to work our way with time.

  3. Universe always has a broad thinking. It might be laughing there seeing us frustrated, as it knows we are on path which it has conspire for us…
    We do not have control over what Universe is conspiring, so only thing which we have with us is to work hard and hope for the best to happen…

    • Thank you Mayuresh. True indeed, the path conspired for us. It seems like yesterday that I read the alchemist and every time I hear anything even related to it brings a smile on my face and keeps telling me that it is so universally true that one masterpiece of a book.
      And true indeed, we need to work hard and do the best with what we have. The rest will find a way to find us 🙂

  4. Life often makes us unhappy, when things don’t work, when we really begin to doubt the positivity…But, then again, it’s the faith and earlier success and experiences that help us to move forward and, eventually we win.
    I think one can’t move forward without looking backward , because, that is the source of all his wisdom and experience.
    Very well-penned, Vinay, as always… 🙂

    • Thank you Maniparna :). True, when things don’t work we begin to doubt our very existence too sometimes. You’ve pointed it aptly, our past experiences fill us with the necessary confidence to take life ahead and make the difference we want. It is impossible to move forward without looking backward. Probably the one differentiating question might be – how we see this past experience and whether it pushes us to achieve more and more..