To Grab Something, You Have to Let Go of Something.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that one. But when it comes to the past and the future, suddenly, this simple piece of common sense seems to become elusive.
My work at this point in my life has evolved to the point where everything I do is based on helping others to achieve their best life possible. I’m not ambitious for gain (although I like it), I am ambitious to serve. This is simply NOT possible without dealing with the past and framing it the proper way. That means letting go of toxic emotions and using your logical brain to turn the past into a force for future good instead of a weapon that you constantly wield against yourself and others.
This was not easy for me, and I’m certain it won’t be, or isn’t now, easy for you.
I will take you through re-calibrating a few things here that if you take them to heart and work on them, could become catapults for your future and greatly improve your lens in the present. But you will have to do the work.
Regret and Resentment are Misery Anchors
Let’s start with this general and far-reaching issue for most. Regret is about your own choices of the past, and resentment is typically about someone else and their perceived negative impact on you in some way.
Both of these things make you feel horrible. Neither of these things has much benefit in the moment. Having said that, I know they are tough ones, because they are strong emotions. Here are my insights for you…
Recognize that regret typically means you made a choice and now wish you would have chosen differently. If you could, you would go back and change it.
Before you assume you would go back and change it, you have to look at your life right now…the people in it, all the good things you currently experience, etc….and you have to be okay with the fact that NONE of what you currently do, have, or are, might be in existence if you could change the choice from the past. There is no meaningful change in isolation that doesn’t affect the entire trajectory of what will come after. For example….I made a lot of regrettable decisions early in my life. Had I not made those decisions, I cannot imagine how I would have ended up meeting my wife Melanie, who is clearly the best thing that ever happened to me (I tell this story more in depth in “3 Circles Living“).
Use these past choices as education for your future choices and let go of the rest. You can’t change the past. My middle school basketball coach used to say “don’t cry after spilled milk.” If you want to really use past regret as an awesome launching pad for your best future possible, consider your biggest regrets…WHAT YOU CHOSE NOT TO DO. If it’s in your heart to do…Do it. If you have an idea…Act on it.
Resentment is a different matter altogether, and no less toxic. It’s like an emotional cancer that filters through your lens on a daily basis. Most of the time the person you are resenting because of all that they did that affected you, has no idea they did it, or that you are carrying it.
Two things on this topic quickly…one is that this made you better. You had to deal with it. It helped you be better prepared for things that hurt. Which is a consistent part of a well-lived life. The second thing is that you have the capacity to forgive. You don’t have to forget (especially if the pain inflicted was intended for harm in some way), and in fact you shouldn’t. Catalogue it as a reference point for future interaction. Forgive and free yourself from the bond.
Your Parents/Guardians Are Not Responsible for Your Adult Experience
This one is too deep to explore fully, but I will cut across the top for you to provide perspective. Every generation is ticked off that some of the things their parents drilled into their head about how to go about life turned out to be false.
For example, when I was growing up, it was repeated over and over that if you get a good job, you will have a nice life and be well taken care of for the next 40 years. It didn’t take long for me to see that this was mostly untrue. Sure it happens, but not as a general rule. I lost two jobs in my first four years in the working world, that had nothing to do with my performance.
Was I intentionally lied to?
Of course not. That was the parents of my generation’s experience. Why wouldn’t they want the same for me? Your parents didn’t know what they didn’t know. They had just been navigating their life based on what they heard was true from their parents based on their life experiences.
How could they account for the changes in the world? How could they account for the advancements in society? How could they project the impact of technology, globalization, environmental impacts?
I blamed my Father for deserting me and my Mother for not encouraging me. What did that get me? Nothing.
Both hurt and many of the things I did that were self-destructive were my reactions to this, and life was super hard as I tried to figure out stuff. Eventually, I stopped using the excuse that they messed me up. I accepted that they were trying to navigate life too and using the information they had at hand while dealing with the emotional roller coaster of being a human being and having their own struggles while trying to do the best they could for me, in addition to trying to give me a better life than they had.
It’s your life to live. Whatever they did or didn’t do, no longer guides you unless you choose it. Take the good….in my case, my Mother taught me honesty and respect. Showed me love. Kept a roof over my head and food in my belly. She tried to do her best. I didn’t come with a playbook and neither did you. Working through all that helped me be better. My father was absent. As a result, I don’t need man’s approval (a gift), because I never had it. I am now better as a human being because of all I dealt with, including navigating a world that was not much like what my mother suggested it would be.
My suggestion is to be grateful for what they DID do, learn from their mistakes, and go to work on yourself to make the necessary corrections. Just like your children are going to have to do with what you do with them, as you give them direction based on what you currently know that won’t be nearly as applicable in the world THEY live in.
Your Mistakes, Errors in Judgement, and Failures Do Not Define You
They REfine you. We are negatively conditioned in this world. Constantly told what we aren’t, what we can’t do, what is not possible for us. We are blasted daily with images of what we don’t have, how we aren’t good enough. It’s disgusting, but it’s also up to us to turn away from it.
This negative conditioning (I go deep into this in the “3 Circles Living” book) has hurt us all in many ways but there is ONE huge thing it has done. It has caused us to build monuments to our past transgressions. Then we use those transgressions as proof that it’s not even worth it to try to accomplish new things because they won’t work out anyway. Because WE aren’t WORTH it.
This is a victim mentality and one that I wore like a badge as a younger man. I was a consummate quitter because I truly believed nothing good could happen for me. I was pathetic.
This is the biggest lie of all.
Those same errors, mistakes, and failures are how you learn about yourself, and what works. They grow you. There is no school class, or training course, that teaches you better than messing up, getting back on your feet, and moving forward.
Jim Rohn said “The past is a school, not a weapon.”
You have so much to contribute. So much to accomplish. So much good in you.
In my book, I share a strategy for how I help my clients and self, to overcome this by looking back through the lens of all that you have actually learned how to do, all the things you did overcome, all the successes you did have…and then use them as the springboard.
The Last Nugget…
One of the most actionable things right now for you involves your recent past. If you assess your life in the three major areas of the 3 Circles, you are either going to really like or dislike what you see. In either case, you can trace what you see, to your habits over the past five to ten years.
Wherever you are doing well, look at the habits that have led to that, and see how you can make adjustments to do even better. There is no finish line to improvement. Wherever you are doing poorly, figure out the habits that are creating this current reality, and commit to changing the habits to ones that will positively change the future in that area. Simple in evaluation, not so easy in execution.
But doable. Take it from someone who lives this out every day. You are worth the effort to work on yourself. Use the past as a tool for your future not an excuse.
You have to much to give, and the truth is that there is not a single person on this earth that is exactly like you, and can make the unique contribution you can make. But you can’t make it looking backwards. Take this message to heart, and it will help you move forward.
I hope you found this helpful. Please share with others if you believe they would benefit.
Here is a recent video on How to Design an Awesome Life
Many Blessings, Todd
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