The end of the year is a time when people look back and make plans for the next one. Did you know that as you read this, you’re already always living in the past, never in the now?

David Eagleman, an American writer and neuroscientist, says that we live with what he calls the 80-millisecond rule. This is where there is a difference between seeing and hearing. Beyond 30 meters you perceive what’s happening visually first. When your brain registers what’s happening, it already is 80 milliseconds past.

Our brains sync the two events, so that it seems as if we hear and see at the same time. According to other research, we only recall bits and pieces of what happened when we try to remember. Yet, as we age memories seem to be taking up a more important place in our mind than thoughts about the future.

Without memory, we cannot construct scenarios for ourselves in the future. Human consciousness allows us to be aware of what we are doing. To some degree, how we plan for the future is based on the past.

So how useful are the memories of past events we recall at this time of year?

What Do You Remember of Last Year?

As you raised your glass and toasted to a happy and prosperous New Year, ask yourself what you remember of the last year. Are they the good things that happened or the bad ones?

Do you remember the ordinary everyday things? Do you recall the moment that you saw a bird fly by, or an image of the ragged person sitting by the roadside holding a sign?

Of course, when I ask, you can bring up some image in your mind of a moment when such a thing happened. But in general, you don’t remember the ordinary moments. When you think back on the year, you think of the big moments that defined your year. These are both good and bad memories.

Those moments will define what you hope and plan for in the future. We cannot avoid physical decline, but we can plan to live in a healthy way. We cannot avoid financial ups and downs, but we can plan to live within our budget. We cannot avoid loss, but we can build new relationships.

Determine Your Future with Positive Memories

As we age, our activities tend to shrink. Our big moments become less frequent and we’re often left with feelings of emptiness. To avoid having a shrinking life, use your memory to build new plans for the future.

Scour this last year for events that stood out in a positive way and let these memories infuse you with excitement and good feeling from which you can draw to plan your next positive event.

Do you remember a great trip you took? Perhaps you want to experience another one next year. Do you remember the birth of a new grandchild? Maybe you can plan a visit or start making things to entertain the child.

Do you remember the harvest in your garden? Why not start planning this year’s garden! Have you explored a new hobby? Maybe you can step it up and become more of an expert! Did you help at a soup kitchen and see people smile? Do it again. Do more of it!

Enjoy this time of year to let your mind reflect on the things of the past. Remembering the past does not mean you are becoming an old fuddy-duddy! In fact, in remembering, you’re becoming active in planning your future!

Raise a glass to an expansive year in 2017!

What are you planning for the next year to keep you healthy and happy? What memories stand out most for you from 2016? How can you draw on those to plan a wonderful and expansive 2017? We look forward to your comments.

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