Henry David Thoreau guitar practice

[Quote] Thoreau on Looking Back and Moving Forward

Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Enjoy!


“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”

Henry David Thoreau


For most of us, practice is not imperative. No one scolds us if we miss a practice. No one checks to make sure we played our scales. No one holds us to our personal musical commitments.

So it’s no surprise we slip sometimes. We skip a day, then a week. We eagerly begin a new study of music theory. We begin a daily sight-reading practice. Then somehow, we “forget” about them.

If we give meaning to these failures, we may lose motivation. Negative self-talk can convince us of all sorts of nonsense. We can find ourselves thinking we’re somehow flawed, as opposed to just human.

In reality, all we have is today. And today we can choose what we do and how.

Indeed, the only way forward is to do good work today. Yesterday’s misfires and aborted attempts matter not a whit. And looking back with regret or shame serves no worthwhile purpose.

In the same respect, the grand dreams of tomorrow are only useful if we move toward them today.

Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychology, warned, “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”

And Byron Katie said, “Want regret? Get a past. Want anxiety? Get a future.”

Somewhere in the balance of all our mental and emotional chatter, we have today. We can both acknowledge the past and plan for the future. But we yield power only here today.


“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”

Henry David Thoreau




allen mathews classical guitar

About Allen Mathews

Allen Mathews learned guitar as an adult, and has been a full-time guitar teacher for almost two decades to students age 4 to 96.  He has taught classical guitar at Reed College and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and has been a guest lecturer and clinician at schools and universities throughout the U.S.  Allen is often praised for his creative teaching abilities, and his dedication to helping adults learn classical guitar.  He has a popular Youtube Channel offering regular classical guitar tutorials, and has gained fans worldwide for his weekly emails and articles at ClassicalGuitarShed.com.


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