One of the hardest things I had to learn was buttoning up the past. Past hurts, not so great experiences and just plain ol’ bad experiences. For a while I would just rehash them and that was as much fun as getting a daily root canal sans the Novocain. I had to learn that the past is just that, the past, it cannot be changed, erased or edited, and there is nothing that I can “do” about the situation except for learn from it. There is always something that you can learn from good and bad experiences. Learning from it is a two-step process. One is being able to identify the role you played in the experience. This is a critical step because everyone has a role to play – passively or not. So don’t get me wrong, there are situations where other folks are just so out of bounds wrong that there is little or nothing that you could have done to make the situation any better. So now what? How do you stop the cycle of dwelling in the past? I asked myself the following question – “has beating myself up about the past helped or made me feel better?” The answer was a resounding “no.” With that answer I made the commitment to stop behavior that was ultimately self-defeating.
After asking myself this question about my past over and over again and ultimately realizing that I wasn’t helping my emotional health …something had to change. The million dollar question – what did I need to do? I had to learn from past mistakes and make changes in my future behavior. The key to this is that you can’t have one without the other. You must learn AND make future adjustments. My old strategy of just berating myself for past stuff actually solved nothing. To be honest, looking back it lowered my self-esteem because I just created a vicious cycle of reinforcing negative experiences and feelings which just led to more negative feelings and outcomes. Ugh..
The point is to learn from your experiences and move on. You did the best you could do given what you knew and understood at that specific point in time. This in no way condones your behavior as praiseworthy; but there is nothing to gain from self-condemnation.
So what happens if you fall back into old habits and start dwelling on the past? When the past comes back choose to focus on past successes. Remember what you think about is what you become. Concentrate on your successes to help you create future successes. Easier said than done right? Yes, I totally understand and get it. If it’s hard to concentrate on your successes, remind yourself “there is nothing I can do at this very moment that will change what happened. I learned a valuable lesson and have the chance to do better next time.” With this statement, regardless what you did or did not do the approach left for you is to accept your sh*t and springboard forward.