Do you feel your past choices and experiences are still weighing you down? Check out what you can do about them in today’s installment about the “4 Ways to Change Your Life,” about coming to terms and being free from the past.
What happens to you when you don’t get what you want?
Business went belly up?
Didn’t get into the school you wanted?
Got passed over for a promotion? Or a raise?
Haven’t gotten enough sales to break even? Or make payroll?
When you fall, what happens to you? How do you take it?
I took it in the worst possible way. I moped and let my failures defeat me, and take hold of me. I lingered in that pit, and although I read, and learned, i stayed stagnant and did not do much. I didn’t struggle. Instead, I looked for comfort. And for a time I found it, but it did not change my life, and it did not help me become a better person.
All of that started changing the day I asked myself:
“What did I learn from what happened to me?”
“What could I have done differently?”
“What did I need to know to become successful next time?”
I started asking myself questions, and mining my experiences for realizations, reflections, and lessons. Lessons that would help me come to peace with what happened to me, tell me what I needed or needed not to do, ultimately lessons that can change my life, and help change other’s life.
In a way, this is me answering the question: “If I could go back in time, to meet myself when I was suffering, at my worst, what would I have told him?”
“Don’t be chained by the past. It does not define who you are or what you will be. Take what you can, and forge ahead into the future.” That’s one of the things I would say.
Use your past, your experiences, successes and failures as stepping stones and jump-off points for success. Or even just your next step or hurdle. Socrates said that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” Dig deep, and mine your past and experiences for gold, lessons and realizations that you can use. Don’t stay chained to it, but use it instead.
Self-Awareness is Key
Ask yourself: “What are you feeling right now?” Get to identifying your feelings and thoughts, and eventually, become comfortable with it.
Schedule some quiet and alone time to do this. Just be with yourself, and ask yourself questions. Replay the past if need be, and notice your thoughts and beliefs while that is going on.
Here are some frameworks for self-awareness and questioning that I found immensely helpful:
Both give very powerful processes and templates for questioning, and both involve three very powerful principles:
1. “How do you feel about _______________ (specific event / stimulus / person / etc.)” Be specific on what. Be as detailed as possible.
2. Tell yourself the truth. If you have gotten used to just sweeping your true feelings under the rug, know is the time to acknowledge them and accept them. Hiding and denying the truth will only serve to prolong your pain and agony, and no progress will be made if reality is not faced.
3. Represent yourself authentically. Part of saying the truth to yourself, is being able to say the truth to others as well.
Practice of Accepting and Letting Go
Here are some practices to help you to learn and let go of your past
Write it down. Again, writing your experiences, thoughts, and feelings in a journal helps immensely. Focus on writing down details of events, including details of how you felt before, during, and after. Don’t censor yourself, or pay too much attention to the grammar and spelling of what you’re writing. That’s not what you’re after here. You’re here to help yourself capture the moment, whatever you’re feeling, as well as looking at your experiences objectively as well.
Keeping a journal/diary is very helpful, and studies have shown journaling to improve physical and mental well-being, and even strengthen the immune system. Studies have also shown people who journal regularly are re-employed quicker after being laid off, compared to those who do not journal.
Journaling improves a person’s ability to bounce back from failure. There is proof that writing about a traumatic experience for as little as fifteen to twenty minutes a day, from three to four days, has shown positive changes in physical and mental health.
Here are some example writing prompts taken from Amber Lea Starfire:
“How has this trauma or issue influenced other aspects of your life: work, family, personal relationships, living situation, and so on?”
“In what ways has this emotional upheaval made you more vulnerable, and in what ways has it make you less vulnerable?”
Gratitude. Be thankful for the little things that’s going right in your life. When you wake up, or when you go to sleep, be thankful for one thing that you have, or that happened in your life that day. And keep on doing it. Keep on being thankful and having an “attitude of gratitude.”
I’ve experienced pain and loss, and there are times when it’s so difficult to be thankful for anything. That’s because I was so focused on the negative things going on in my life. And focusing on the negatives will only pull you deeper and deeper into more negativity. By acknowledging and being thankful, you are taking away the power of the negative thought in your mind, and refocusing that onto more positive thoughts and feelings, which will help you get out of your negativity, and help you get to a point where you have made peace with your hurts and pains of the past.
Forgive Yourself. We’ve all had mistakes, we’ve all had failures. It’s one thing to blame others for our shortcomings, but more often that not, what is stopping us from completely letting of the past is that we haven’t accepted what has happened to us, and that we haven’t forgiven ourselves for committing the mistakes that we made.
By holding on to past failures and events, and blaming yourself, you’re only limiting yourself and what you can do in life. It’s like a self-made ball and chain that you can work on to remove by yourself. Let go.
Stop blaming yourself. Stop the blame game. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made, and just move on. Nothing will change in your life if you just stay where you are and hold on to the blame. Life will only stagnate and change for the worse. Forgive yourself, and clear that space in your head and your heart for more positive things, feelings, emotions, and thoughts that you want with you. Focus on that instead.
Focus on the Now
The past is done, and what you can do now can’t change what’s happened. The future hasn’t happened yet, and you can’t accurately predict what will happen. All you’ve got is right now, to accept and let go of your past, and to start moving towards a future that you want.
In the next installment of “4 Ways to Change Your Life,” we’ll take a look at practices you can do to develop a better body, mind, and heart, the tools you have right now that you can use to change your life for the better. Tell me what you think in the comments below, and I’ll see you next installment!