Letting Go of the PastMarch 7th
Whether you would rather read the latest mystery or romance novel to hit the shelves or a political memoir or even a new book on health and fitness, one thing remains true: Each chapter tends to build on the past.
Particularly in fiction, the action in one chapter drives the plot. The character – hero or villain, take your pick – may “talk” about life experiences that shaped his or her journey, but rarely does living in the past play a major role. Far more often, letting go of the past is the one thing that lets the hero grow. The hero overcomes his past failure and goes on to topple his nemesis and save the city. The school teacher tells students a story about life in another time – and those students, drawing on the parallels, go on to change lives in their community.
It’s never the case that these events did not matter. The past serves to provide lessons and insights. Action takes place. Change happens. And the characters of the story grow.
In day to day life, however, it is often another story altogether. While sitting at the same cubicle year after year, the office worker thinks about an email mistake – sending a letter complaining about the boss to the boss, for example – and how if only he could go back in time life would be better and he’d have moved to the corner office. A mother watching her daughter, struggling as a young adult, focuses on what she could have done differently: “If only I’d never let her date that Jonathan character, she would have had so much more self-esteem,” she might think. That same daughter may have a completely different regret that holds her back – something like regretting not picking up the call her grandfather made the day he died because she was running late to meet friends.
In all of these situations and any others you might name, there is one challenge that slows progress – and it’s rarely, if ever, the past event that you’d like to blame. The challenge is the regret. The challenge is not letting go of the past. The challenge comes from giving an event from the past so much power that it is carried into the present – and slows progress that could be made toward achieving future goals.
By holding too tightly onto the past, it becomes impossible to live in the now. By holding too tightly onto what could have been done, there are fewer opportunities to take now. By not closing the door on one chapter of our lives, we make it difficult to move to the next.
Rather than focusing on what you could have done, look at how you’ve grown. Rather than contemplating a missed opportunity, focus on what you can do now – today – to create a new opportunity in your life. Instead of lingering on thoughts of the past, visualize your future. Turn the page and welcome what comes next. Your goals may not be reached overnight, but you’ll know that you’re closer to achieving them.