Is your past something you don't want to think about anymore, not even for a single second?
I used to have that mindset, the want to feel totally hands-free of yesteryears' memories, to cut-off completely the reminders of pain, failures, and bleak times. Living in the moment and working towards the future are more appealing than recalling the past. But I realised in this journey called life that acknowledging the past does not mean going back to it and reliving its horrors. I learned that I didn't have to run away in fear from it. I also learned that looking back does not mean I am once again stuck in the mud of the past. Instead, I am only looking down at it from up above, the size of it no bigger than the shape of my shoes. Among the rubbles of the past is its value. It cannot be undone or corrected but it's not totally useless.
Use The Past to Measure Progress
When I see old photos of the skinny me or the fat me, I want to hide under a table. When I am reminded of my old job that gave low pay and didn't allow opportunities for career growth, I want to scold myself for applying there in the first place. When I recall the old, sulky, unfriendly, and pessimistic version of me, I grin in embarrassment. I used to be ashamed of all of them but not anymore. I'm proud I have changed my body's composition. I'm proud working for my current employer, the company I stayed with the longest in my career. I'm proud to have adopted a different outlook and mindset in life. My past reminds me that I have made progress in life. I didn't settle for my previous predicaments and looked for ways to improve different aspects of my life. If there's no progress between my past and my current situation, then that can serve as a wake-up call that I'm doing something wrong or maybe I'm not doing anything at all.
Make The People You Used to Know Serve as a Reminder
Remember that friend who became a stranger? How about that employer a.k.a. slavedriver? Or that cheating ex-lover? Or perhaps that random hater who had it out for you for reasons unknown? Thinking about them may leave a bitter taste in your mouth but it doesn't have to be that way.
I used to have a friend who I trusted the most and looked up to with respect and admiration. Even when this person began treating me terribly, I refused to admit reality and made excuses for the unjustly behaviour. Later, I found out this person was saying nasty things behind my back. With disappointment and anger, it was initially a challenge accepting this person's true colours. Now, I use this person's (and many others') negative traits to remind me of unacceptable behaviour. If I feel that my actions are becoming similar to their's, I snap myself back to the right track. Who said I can't get something positive out of the negative?
Failures Should Motivate You to Work Harder
I remember my first job interview. “Why should we hire you?” the interviewer asked me. I was lost for words. I stared blankly right through the interviewer into the wall behind her for minutes. Definitely I wasn't hired (which was a good thing). After that, I researched. I wanted to improve and to avoid that scenario for my following interviews. Thankfully, there wasn't any dead-air-ish “answer” from me after that one time. I got better and better and better because I used my mistakes to push me to work harder.
The bottom line is to not quit. Do better the next time, whether you're launching a startup, training at the gym, learning a new skill, or beginning a new relationship. Be your number one fan.
Fears Are Rooted From the Past
When bad things happen to us in the past, fear relating to those events are infused in our minds. Fear is paralysing. It prevents us from thinking and acting rationally. For a human being, fear can prevent self-growth. Self-growth is vital in becoming a better person and achieving good and great things. The only way to overcome fear is to face it. This must begin with acknowledging the past event(s) that caused this fear and make peace with it.
Long Lost Dreams Are Rooted From the Past Too
And this is my favourite!
When we were kids, we were dreamers. We weren't quite aware of society and the world yet so our concept of “reality” and “fantasy” was not aligned with society's. When we grew up, we lost touch with this side of our personality. For some of us, this is tragic.
With the lack of toys in my childhood, I spent most of my time reading books, making the most of my cheap toys, drawing on my notebooks, and living in make-believe worlds to entertain myself. These gave me a creative mind. When I was in college, I decided I wanted to be a writer someday. But after graduating, I had to make use of my education and sought a career in IT. I forgot about my dream. Last year, I asked myself what do I really want to make out of my life. When I found the answer within me, I realised it was something that began manifesting at an early age.
If you haven't discovered your dream or true calling yet, why not go take a trip down memory lane? Maybe you'll find it there.
Thinking about the past is not totally destructive. As long as we don't allow it to hold us back, we can derive value and meaning from it. Hey, I rediscovered my dream from my past. And here I am chasing it!
Cover image: The fog of yesterday by Arman Dzaferagic