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Arrow Tip #9: Don't Let Your Past Steal Your Future

Are you lamenting the choices you made? Things you did or didn't do? Are you stuck reliving painful memories? Or maybe, on the other hand, you feel like your best days are behind you. Here's how to break free........


Letting go of the past can be hard. I get it. Sometimes it seems like if I keep rehashing the past, maybe I'll feel better or have more control over my future. But that's not what happens. It usually just makes me feel worse and accomplishes nothing. We hold on to our pasts for a multitude of reasons. Reasons like justifying our positions or choices. Beating ourselves up for wrongful deeds as if somehow that will make them right. Regretting things like it will allow us to go back and change them. Insisting that we were wronged in some way, even if it was by our own selves. Sometimes we even hold onto the past to use it as an excuse so we won't actually have to change. On the opposite side, maybe it's not painful memories we're hanging on to. Perhaps it's the "good ole days". "Things were better when________". Some people choose to focus on those because they feel their best days are behind them or they're somehow dissatisfied with their current state of affairs.

Regardless of the reason, one thing I can say for sure....it's impossible to have a better future when you're always looking in the rearview mirror. Not only that, you miss a whole lot of great scenery along the way.


"Life is a journey and the terrain is ever-changing. If we treat it like a journey then we can enjoy the ride so much more".

When you slip into the driver's seat you face forward. You don't drive with your head turned around looking at where you've been. You may glance in the rearview mirror now and then just to be aware of your surroundings but you don't keep your focus there. Typically you have a destination in mind. You plug the address into the GPS and hit GO. Then you look ahead and follow the prompts given. Never once do you entertain the thought that you might not get where you're going based on what's behind you. What's back there is where you've been and has little bearing on what lies ahead.


Try seeing your life this way. Your past doesn't have to predict your future unless you allow it to. The meaning you give your past will determine how OR if it impacts your future. (See Arrow Tip #8 for more explanation on meaning). Liken your future to a road trip. Your future is in front of you. Your present is the car you are riding in. You're enjoying the current location while anticipating your next destination. You can remember the past without being obsessed with it. I will say it again, it is impossible to move forward when your only view is the back window. You'll have to turn around and face forward in order to move forward.


What does this look like in practical terms? You know you're looking out the back window when you're beating yourself up for the past. You might be wishing things had turned out differently and you just can't let go of that. This is one of the most common ways we get stuck in the past. I don't think there's anyone on this planet that doesn't wish that something in their life had turned out differently. But the important thing is to accept it for what it is. Don't let it define you. Let it empower you to move forward. If you're stuck there then use it as a launching pad to move in a new, more desired direction. Living in regret is like standing in quicksand, it just swallows you up. Accept the past as a place you've visited but have no desire to live there. When you continue to dwell in it, you make it your current home. Get in your car, look out the front windshield, and start driving.


Another way we allow the past to steal our future is when we think our best days are behind us. The so-called "good old days" that we can't seem to let go of. We do this when we can't appreciate our current state of affairs, or have no hope for a better future. We do this when we insist on things being the way they once were. Change is part of the natural flow of life. Things come and they go. When we insist on holding on to "what was" then we can never create something new and wonderful. Sometimes you have to let go of good in order to get great. Remember that. You may have had a wonderful relationship in the past but by insisting that every new relationship be the same as your old one, you miss out on something that could be even better. You may have had a fantastic work situation that changed and by comparing every different work scenario to the older one, you miss out on new opportunities. Dwelling in the so-called "better" past keeps you from enjoying what's here and now....and soon this becomes the past too!


Whether you feel your past was good or bad, accept it for what it was. Embrace it as part of your journey, and take any benefit you can from it. Use it as a data point that allows you to enjoy where you currently are, while also moving towards a fantastic future.

 

ACTION STEPS:


  1. Notice where you may be focusing on your past rather than the present.

  2. Whatever your feeling is about the past, accept it for what it was and use it to your advantage.

  3. DECIDE that you will spend your time looking out the front window so you can move in a forward direction.

  4. If you occasionally glance in the rearview mirror, just remind yourself that it's for perspective purposes only, then get right back to looking out the front windshield.

 

*REMEMBER: YOU ARE UNSTOPPABLE!