How Your Past Is Helping Your Future…If You Let It

photo - past helping future

“Don’t Look Back You’re Not Going That Way”

I was given a framed copy of this quote by one of my favorite people and have it sitting on my desk as a reminder to keep looking forward.

The number one thing I get from this quote: my past does not define me.

And neither does yours.

You’ve probably heard this before but understanding it in your bones can be difficult.

It’s really easy to get entangled in past ‘mistakes’. But rather than wishing things would have gone a different way or second guessing every decision we make, how about we just learn from the past and move on? Can we stop with judging ourselves already?

I understand that this is a lot easier said than done.

If you’re anything like me, you may replay past scenarios over and over wishing you had said (or not said) a certain thing, or acted a different way, or you dissect every single thing the other person said or did.

But what does this really get us?

Reliving the past keeps us from enjoying the here and now. And re-playing bad scenarios over and over just makes us feel like crap.

Since we can’t change the past, how about we stop with the overanalyzing and just see past ‘mistakes’ for what they are: information to learn from and do better next time.

The learning is the critical step otherwise we will continue to repeat the same action over and over.

I’ve actually completely changed my outlook on the idea of ‘mistakes’. I don’t believe in them anymore – I see everything that’s happening in my life as information/feedback. Sure, it may not always play out in the most pleasant way, but the world doesn’t end and I’ve survived all of my ‘mistakes’ up until now.

What if the purpose of mistakes is to simply provide information to have us learn, grow, and become better people? What’s so wrong with that? From that standpoint, I’ve seen how everything that’s happened is helping me to grow into a better version of myself.

As Maya Angelou so beautifully said, “When you know better, you do better.”

So what could this look like?

Let’s say you snap at your sister because you feel like she’s taking advantage of you? Instead of stewing over how inconsiderate she is, maybe your snapping is a lesson in building stronger boundaries or in saying no.

Or you gave a sales presentation to a client and it totally flopped. Instead of harping on how the client reacted, maybe it’s a lesson in allowing more prep time or speaking up and requesting more time.

I’m not saying that this is necessarily easy or that it justifies certain actions – we still need to hold ourselves accountable for what we do. But it helps build a more empowered way of looking at our actions and gets us out of victim-mode.

And some things will require a lot of effort to learn and move on from. In my own life, divorce was a huge hurdle to get over and seeing things as feedback & information to grow from took time.

Sometimes the learning takes time.

Sometimes you have to grieve whatever happened first in order to learn from it.

The past may not always be easy to learn from, especially when we look at our responsibility in what happened, but it all happened for a reason – for you to learn from and be a better person because of.

Be easy on yourself.

When we are easier on ourselves, we are easier on others and ultimately we see that most everyone is just doing the best they can with where they are in their lives.

Your past can be a good teacher but let’s just leave it at that.

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