Have you discovered how to let go of the past? There are few discoveries more important.
No one wakes up in the morning and proclaims, “Today I’m going to gain weight.” You know the reality; the extra pounds gradually add up over the years. Then, while walking up a flight of steps, you start gasping for air, and recognize the pounds have added up.
The same is true of the accumulated garbage of the past.
- You never got over the divorce.
- Your best friend betrayed you.
- Your kids hurt you.
- The boss gave the promotion to someone less deserving.
- You never reconciled with your father before he died.
Over the years, the garbage heap of the past holds you back. This is a serious problem. It’s critical to let go of the past.
There are four good reasons you should be concerned about how to let go of the past.
1. Hanging on to the past can start to define you.
In your head you are the guy who failed at business. You are the one who let your family down. You’ve made a series of bad choices. A critical mistake creates an ever-present cloud of gloom hanging overhead. No wonder some people look at the accumulated garbage and walk through life branding themselves a loser.
2. Hanging on to the past can poison you.
The ancient Romans were known to strap a dead body onto the backs of prisoners. The decaying flesh began to rot the living flesh of the prisoner. In a similar way, carrying painful garbage from the past can poison you. Bad attitudes and sour resentment spreads poison through the psyche of those who refuse to give up the past.
3. Hanging on to the past keeps you looking back when you need to look forward.
When you refuse to let go of the past you keep looking backward. Trying to move forward in life while focusing on the past is like trying to drive your car while staring in the rear view mirror. To make forward progress in your life you must focus on the road ahead.
4. Hanging on to the past drains your energy.
Wrestling with past garbage burns a lot of energy. Replaying the past, trying to figure out why or how or who, is exhausting. Your batteries will constantly drain when focusing on things you cannot change. If you refuse to let go of the past, prepare yourself to drag through life; putting one weary step in front of the other.
You will never be able to embrace your exciting future until you let go of your troubled past.
The big question is this, “How do I let go of the garbage of the past?”
Here’s how to let go of the past once and for all:
First, be certain you want to get rid of it.
Some past pains hang around like little pets. They are always there for you as a place to direct your anger. They become a part of who you are. If you live in the painful past it turns into familiar territory. And everyone tends to cling to the familiar. Decide it’s time to part company with the garbage of the past.
Second, ditch the victim mentality.
People who spend their lives looking at past pains often conclude they are victims. Life has dealt them a bad hand. They are unlucky. Bad things always happen to them. No one understands how hard it has been for them. You only become a victim if you allow it. Stop being a victim by taking control. And taking control means you’ve decided to ditch the painful past. Everyone has setbacks and misfortune. Take responsibility for your feelings and choose to move forward.
Third, focus on the present.
Force yourself to be in THIS moment. It will take practice, but over time you will discover you are spending less time in the past. Life is here, not back there. This moment is what counts, not a short clip which happened years ago. As you focus on the present you place the past where it belongs: in the past.
Fourth, practice forgiveness.
Who are you blaming for the past pain? A relative? God? A friend? Yourself? When you refuse to forgive, you only hurt yourself. Why would you give those who have hurt you so much power? It’s over. Let it go and let them go.
Letting go of the past does not happen in a quick single step. It’s a long journey. But you can only grasp the future when you let go of the past. Now that you know how to let go of the past you have work to do.
If you’ve discovered how to let go of the past, what strategies have worked for you?
(This is a revision of a similar article I published in the Huffington Post Feb. 23, 2016.)