Your Past Does Not Equal Your Future
How many times have you thought or heard: But I/we have always done it this way? Just because you have stayed in a job you hate for 10 years doesn’t mean that you have to continue to stay in the job. Are you already thinking of reasons why you have to stay in this job? This mindset applies to all aspects of your life, not just your career. What about relationships? Most people have a friend that drives them crazy and drains them of their energy, so why do you stay friends with them? When is it time to start breaking habits and starting new ones?
Consider this. A former client, John*, wanted to go back to school at the age of 27. He delayed enrolling for years because he was a bad student in high school. He automatically jumped to the conclusion that he must not be smart enough for college. So, let’s review the facts. He was a successful salesman and successfully completed many courses to enhance his sales skills. For John, none of these facts were playing into his assumption that he was a bad student, never mind the fact that he was basing this decision off of 10-year old data. John is the perfect example of determining his future off of past experience. Is he the exception to the rule?
Decisions are made with the best available information on hand at the time. Typically, this information comes from our personal and others’ experiences. Quite simply, how do you decide which car to purchase? You probably do some research on the Internet, but what is your biggest driver (pun intended) of your choice? Your experience with vehicle models and those close to you are probably going to influence you most. Let’s bring this back to personal development and this concept of moving beyond your past.
Another client, Anne, was married for 20 years, had 3 children, and a successful job for the same company for 12 years. When Anne’s marriage ended, her life fell apart. Anne felt like a walking zombie for 2 years. She had lost all interest in her job, and her children were playing her and her ex-husband against each other. After a year and a half of therapy, Anne declared that she is tired of living in the past. Anne felt that she had finally come to the point where she was ready to put the past in the past, and move beyond. Anne’s initial coaching goals were to find a new job. Part of her fear around leaving her company was the feeling of ‘divorce’ showing its face once again. Through coaching, Anne was able to deal with the feelings of divorcing her employer and launching a new career, and a new life.
How does one make the steps to move beyond? First, it is important to feel the emotions of the significant event before you try to put it in the past. You must understand the event, the feelings that it has created within you, and when you see those feeling rise in you. Journaling is a powerful activity to tap into your inner self and determining when you see these feelings come up. Purchase a notebook and keep it with you during the day so that you jot down quick thoughts. You will find yourself in a rhythm of when journaling works for you. Another option is to record yourself with a tape recorder or an MP3 recorder. Some find it very powerful to talk and to listen to their voice later. A lot of information can be found in your voice, including emotions, tone, and pitch. Each of these are wonderful insights to your self.
Once you know your feelings and emotions surrounding the significant event(s) in your life, it is time to identify new behaviors to replace the old ones. Let’s revisit John’s situation. When John would begin thinking about returning to school, he felt his body tense up and his mind would quickly return him to his high school days. In order to move beyond these emotions, John began deep breathing exercises and focusing on success in school. He would sometimes picture receiving a test back with a big “A” on the top or receiving positive feedback from a professor. Once adopting these new behaviors, John finally reached a point where he was able to drive to the campus and sign up for classes.
The key to moving beyond your past is accepting the past for what it is, and knowing that your future can be different. Moving beyond is a process that will not happen overnight. These emotions and behaviors have been with you for a long time, so you can not expect them to leave overnight. Commitment to the process of moving beyond and focusing on the future goals of your life will catapult you into new territories!