Why is it that some people go through life feeling frustrated and stuck, while others are able to make massive positive changes no matter what the universe throws at them? Why do so many people become angry, bitter, and spiteful after adversity, but others grow more resilient, compassionate, and determined?
Part of the answer lies in the ability to leave the past behind. While many people fixate on the past, others successfully move on from difficult experiences. These people understand that they can’t change the past, but they can work toward a better future. They commit to focusing on what they can change, rather than what’s already occurred.
Read on for some helpful tips on how to leave the past behind that will drastically improve your life!
1. Forgive yourself and others
Are you holding onto something from your past, and it’s preventing you from living a better future? Consider this quote from Steve Maraboli: “The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”
No matter what mistakes you’ve made in the past, you won’t be able to move ahead unless you forgive yourself and let go. Focus on your future and how you’ll use your passions and talents to serve the world, rather than wasting time and energy dwelling on the mistakes you’ve made and who has hurt you.
Regardless of what you’ve been through in life, you can always work on making your future better. When you continuously focus on painful experiences you’ve had, the mistakes you’ve made and how others have wronged you, you’re holding yourself hostage and preventing yourself from experiencing the joy and success you deserve.
Every person has had some sort of painful life experience. How you choose to react to those experiences is what determines whether you can leave the past behind and look ahead to the future. Work hard to forgive yourself and others so you can be free!
2. Reframe your thoughts
Reframe your thoughts from negative to positive. For example, saying, “My last relationship ended so badly that I’ll never trust anybody again” dwells on the negative. To focus on the positives, you could reframe it to, “My relationship had a rough ending, but I’ll work on loving myself and learning how to trust others again so I can have a healthy relationship.”
When you work on taking control of your thoughts and accept that you’re responsible for your own happiness, your life will greatly improve.
It’s important to be mindful of the ongoing dialogue you have with yourself. If you’re continually beating yourself up over events from your past, it’s almost impossible to move forward. Make a point to speak to yourself with encouragement and reframe your thoughts from negative to positive so you can continually make forward progress.
3. Change your daily habits
Have you felt stuck year after year, and want to ditch your past for a better lifestyle? Try working on your daily habits. Doing what you’ve always done in the past will likely continue to bring you the same results in the future. If you want to move on from your past and have different outcomes in the future, you’ll need to put significant effort into changing how you do things.
Choose one area of your life you’d like to start changing. Then set a specific goal with an action plan for bringing about a change. For example, maybe you’re craving to make this the year you get healthy. It can be overwhelming to try to change your exercise habits, your diet, and your mindset all at once. Also, a goal of simply “being healthier” is vague and not easily measurable.
Instead of setting massive, nebulous goals, set specific objectives, and then break those down into smaller goals and work on changing the habits associated with them. Start by choosing one habit you’d like to change related to your goal. In the getting healthier example, you might start by replacing your daily soda with water. Or substitute 30 minutes of social media per day with 30 minutes spent walking your dog (remember him?) in the fresh air.
Changing habits you’ve had for years can be difficult, but it’s definitely possible. Focus on gradually modifying your small habits so your daily actions move you closer to your long-term goals. Fine-tuning your routine takes time, but can help you break away from your old habits and propel you toward success.
4. Get out of your comfort zone
If you want to leave the past behind, the best way to do it is to make your life better than it was in the past. And the best way to do that is to take regular steps out of your comfort zone. Commit to pushing past your fears and trying new things – it’s essential for growth!
Taking steps out of your comfort zone can be intimidating, but remember that everything is an experiment. If you try a new activity and don’t like it, that’s okay. You’ve learned more about yourself in the process, and self-discovery is an important part of living a fulfilling life, too.
You don’t have to take a giant leap out of your comfort zone immediately. Taking small steps outward on a regular basis leads to significant progress over time. Choose one small new action to try today to expand your world. It will help get you unstuck and move you away from the past.
5. Build an amazing tribe
As Jim Rohn said, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If you want to create a different future, consider who you spend most of your time with. Are these people building you up? Are they encouraging and supporting you to be your best? Or, are they usually negative and pessimistic? The people you surround yourself with significantly affect your life and, therefore, your ability to leave the past behind. Make this the year you decide to build a tribe of amazing people around you.
When you meet new people, it’s easier to avoid dwelling on your past, because they know nothing about it. That means you can dramatically change your life by changing who you associate with. Surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do. Do you have a message you want to share with the world? Would you like to become an amazing speaker? Consider joining Toastmasters. There, you’ll meet other people who desire to improve their speaking skills in a helpful, engaging, non-threatening environment. Do you long to launch your own business? Seek out Facebook or meetup groups in the entrepreneurial world. Start attending events like TEDx and the weekly 1 Million Cups meetings that are spreading throughout the United States. There’s a contagious buzz of energy and excitement throughout the entrepreneurial crowd.
If no groups exist for what you hope to do, be a self-starter and create your own group in your community. Building a tribe around you of people with similar goals can help you move on from the past and press forward into the successful life you long for.
Being able to reconcile with your past will take some significant work. If you’re having difficulty moving on from a painful past, don’t be opposed to seeking professional guidance. The fact, though, is that you can’t change what has already happened, but you can change your life to have a better future simply by changing what you’re focusing on.
Work on forgiveness to set yourself free. Pause when you have a negative thought and reframe it into a positive statement. Change your daily habits to increase your future success. Take frequent, small steps out of your comfort zone to continually grow. And build an amazing tribe of people who encourage, support, and guide you to reach your full potential.
No matter what your past has been like, this is a great big world full of possibilities for you. It’s time to look to the future with hope and excitement, and step forward into the life you’re meant to have!
~ Kerry Petsinger can help you spend your time doing what you love. For your free “30 Powerful Questions to Find Your Passion” workbook, click here!