The biggest struggle I have is always studying my past as a map for my future. I act like the person who I was will always stay the same.
How do you stop living in the past? To create a life well lived, you must aggressively push towards the future. Only observe the past as a place of learning and discovery: a mere platform to construct your projects on.
Reliving failed relationships and projects only causes my hope for the future to diminish… until I’m paralyzed by my thoughts.
I felt swallowed up by my past. Living in the fear of things that already happened. And this only led to anxiety and frustration.
Think of your thoughts and actions as percentages. What percentage of your thoughts are rooted in past behaviors and events? And what percentage is based on hopes and ambitions for the future?
Most of us are sitting around 80% past and 20% future. And the 80% obsession with the past is causing most of our problems. It creates discontentment, frustration, anxiety, fear, etc.
Too often we’re filled with remorse and regrets. And we are attempting to live emotionally in the past. We fill ourselves with guilt in an attempt to change what’s already been done…
Guilt only complicates the future, it can never alter the past.
To live an astonishingly-freeing life, you must dig yourself out of past patterns. Test your negative patterns of behavior and thought. Then, take small steps of progress towards your desired life.
1.Find true forgiveness for yourself and others
“You cannot forgive a person unless you have first condemned him. Jesus never condemned the woman in the first place—so there was nothing for him to forgive.” – Maxwell Maltz
We usually hold grudges because we think the other person was in the wrong. From a purely stoic philosophy, we are born to work together in harmony.
When we turn our back on others, we work in direct opposition to our humanity.
Instead of working towards creation and community, we become invested in destruction and avoidance. We sluggishly accept the events around us and become dangerously reactionary.
Who is someone you haven’t been able to forgive? No matter the conflict that took place, that event is in the past.
You will only find true solace in your reaction to the event. Don’t invest your time and energy reliving it.
Harboring grudges will only cause repeated damage to your emotional and physical health (Explore the ying-yang of cortisol and oxytocin in grudges).
To find forgiveness for yourself and others, start living a life of abundant grace. Don’t keep track of the wrongs others commit. What advantage do you have in counting the missteps of others?
When someone harms you, understand that you can only control your response. Don’t waste your energy trying to fix what someone else put into motion.
Respond with grace and understanding. Concern yourself with the freedom you give to others. And shift your focus away from the condemnation you desire to wield.
2. Assume responsibility for yourself
“Assume responsibility for your own life and emotional needs. Try giving affection, love, approval, acceptance, understanding to other people, and you will find them coming back to you as a sort of reflex action.” – Maxwell Maltz
You can start leaving the past behind by shaking off the power you lend to it. Instead of feeling trapped by past choices or events that leveled you, take responsibility for where you are now.
Once you can take ownership of where you currently are, you can begin to shape your future patterns of thought and behavior.
Richard Rohr explains his concept of the Principle of Likeness:
“We mend and renew the world by strengthening inside ourselves what we seek outside ourselves, and not by demanding it of others or trying to force it on others.”
To live a life that is free from the past, start by recognizing what you’re searching for outside of yourself. Then, assume the responsibility of creating that within yourself.
If you want others to be more loving, chose to be loving to others first. If you desire a peaceful world, directly seek peace inside yourself.
3. Start a project
“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task” – Victor Frankl
After shedding the weight of the past, you can begin planning projects and goals that will propel you into a life of purpose and fulfillment.
Most people are content with a growth-avoidant life. They seek pleasure as a distraction from purpose.
This is because chasing after life purpose requires hard work and relentless focus. It’s easier to sit in the comfort zone of a job that is frustrating and continually distract yourself with social media and leisure without ever doing meaningful, creative work.
But, pursuing a project or cause that adds fulfillment to your life and others creates a profound sense of direction that will fill you, and others, with joy.
“The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. Self-actualization can only be found in self-transcendence” – Maxwell Maltz
To live free and fulfilling life, we must understand how our negative, past patterns of thought and behavior shape who we are. We give them too much power.
Learn to step outside of your past faults and failures and continually look towards what you want to create.
“Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answer for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible” – Victor Frankl
If you feel like you’re stuck or trapped in a fog, you have thousands of ways to get out. But, every escape requires your full desire to want to move on.
You can start by forgiving others and yourself, assuming responsibility for your past and current actions, and starting to work towards a project that will lead you to a purpose-filled life.