After a few laughs and some tears, we reflected on the importance of including your past—all of it—the good, the bad, and the ugly, so you’re present to learn and engage with what’s possible now.
There’s no question that it’s important to learn from past mistakes and errors in judgment. However, it’s also important not to be so weighed down by them, that you cease to be present to this moment. It’s often not the mistake itself, but the self-judgment you carry around that relentlessly pursues you.
The secret to putting the past in a meaningful perspective is to stop pretending you could have done anything other than what you did, or that you could have responded differently to what someone else did.
When you stop pretending, you have the opportunity to face what happened. Then understanding begins to emerge, and you realize you don’t know what would have happened if you had changed anything. Do you ever notice that you don’t imagine a new ending to your past mistakes or decisions you regret and have a worse outcome? Past events are always turning out better, improved, and successful when you imagine doing something different from what occurred. The truth is you can see now what you couldn’t see then.
What if instead of the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” fantasy, you brought your attention to what you can do now? You can change any self-limiting story about the past, to empowering stories about what you and others learned. Even if it’s simply not to repeat that mistake again.
This way of thinking about the past gives you some elevation, so you can put it behind you in a beneficial way. You stop trying to erase it or change it, and instead include it by asking yourself questions that bring you present. Then past mistakes and errant decisions can provide valuable insight and wisdom.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when the past starts to intrude on the present:
1) What do you know now that you didn’t know then?
2) How has what happened shaped who you are today?
3) Are there any decisions you’re avoiding, that could become the next regret?
4) Is there anything incomplete that you could take action on now?
Be mindful today. See what gets revealed when you give yourself room to breathe and reflect.
Remember, whatever happened—happened. You stand on the shoulders of the past when you
include it. Then you are present to engage with what’s next, and free to enjoy who you are today.
May you be peaceful and productive.
Paulette Sun Davis