There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind. – C.S Lewis
Of the past, the present, and the future, the past can undoubtedly be the trickiest to deal with. On the whole, the past plays a very peculiar role amongst those three periods of our lives.
It has the unique privilege of being able to shape other periods of life. For this reason, many cling to it incessantly and have difficulty to leave the past behind.
Yet even though what we do in the past can shape our lives immensely, the trickiest part about dealing with the past sometimes isn’t in what we can get from holding on to it but what we can get when we let go.
Many find it challenging to achieve the next step in life because they hold on too much to what has happened. Many lose hope in their future because they feel the obsession is a form of contemplation when it isn’t.
Why We Fixate on the Past
There is so much to gain from focusing on the present without the shackles of the past. Some believe they have no hope thanks to past results, while some don’t even believe they are worthy of redemption in the first place.
○ Fear of the Future
Fear is one of the most common reasons people fixate on the past. The past, no matter how wild and raw and traumatic, is always a safe option.
Why? Because, unlike the present, it does not require our actions, and unlike the future, it is already done. There is nothing to look forward to in the past. That is why many cling to it.
Clinging to the safety of the past may seem unwise to many, and of course, it is, but when people feel as though they are hopeless and not deserving of redemption in the future, the past is the only thing they cling to.
○ Regret About Past Mistakes
Another reason why we tend to hold on too much to the past is due to our adverse reactions to past mistakes. Without a doubt, the best way to deal with mistakes is to learn from them and move on.
Regret is a negative feeling that we experience when we realize that things could have been better if we had taken a different path. It is a common human emotion and can affect our mental health.
Nowadays, people regret the past mistakes they have made more often than they did in the past. One reason for this could be because of how easy it has become to go back and see those mistakes from a new perspective.
Sometimes the only real option to reduce the effects of regret is to forgive oneself and move on.
11 Ways to Leave the Past Behind
No matter the particular reason we choose to fixate on the past, the truth is that leaving the past behind and focusing on the present is the answer to feel at peace in this world.
Below we highlight ten ways to leave the past behind and walk on to a new future.
1. Make a Conscious Decision to Move On
Without a doubt, the first step to leaving the past behind is actually making the decision to leave the past behind. It has to be a conscious decision, too.
You can’t move on by accident in this case. It is just not a part of human nature. Human nature is to deflect, evade, fixate. To overcome all of this and move on to a better future, you have to decide to do so.
Deciding to move on never comes easy. Thanks to our fixation on the past negative thoughts, it usually comes a little too late after the world has crumbled around us.
Luckily, we don’t have to make more mistakes and watch everything fall apart before deciding to move on. Yes, we must learn from our mistakes, but we shouldn’t spend too long on them.
2. Past has no power over preset moment
A spiritual teacher and self help author of the book “The Power of Now“, Eckhart Tolle rightly pointed out, the past is something of a mirage. Because it is finished and fresh in our memories, it tends to make us feel as though it will control everything else in our lives.
Make no mistake about it, though, the past will only control our present and future if we let it. If we choose to fixate and obsess, the painful past will destroy the future.
If we choose to regard it as just another moment out of millions that make up a lifetime, we become better for it.
3. Forgive Yourself for What You Didn’t Know
Most times, mistakes are only a product of our past maturity level. It deflects our growth level back when the mistake was made, which is not a bad thing at all.
It’s important to look at your past self with compassion. You were just doing what you did because of the level of knowledge and maturity you had back then. Now is a time for healing and forgiveness so you can start being a better person, living a better life.
4. Admission is the First Step to Growth
We only grow when we realize that we’re not too big to make mistakes. Everyone makes them. We don’t have to beat ourselves up over it.
Once we’re able to admit that we simply hadn’t attained the required level of growth and experience necessary for success at the time, we can then look at the past event as a learning opportunity.
By doing this, we not only turn a bad event into a good angle, but we also get to learn from it and become as grown and mature as we think we were.
5. Discard Negative Memories that no Longer Serve you
Some past events are easier to get over than others. Some events make us feel so much guilt and sadness that they continue to linger much longer than they ever had a right to be.
In cases like this, we may have to carry out a conscious exercise to get rid of them. This requires focusing on these events and analyzing in our heads why they’re there in the first place.
Do they still have a lesson to teach us? Are they trying to help us see something we missed? If not, then they’re only there to torture and distract. Negative memories like this, of course, should be quickly identified and discarded.
6. Embrace the Changed Parts of Yourself
There is an opportunity for us to renew ourselves. There’s an opportunity for us to leave the past behind and present something different for the future. – Jay Weatherill
Another reason many people find it hard to move on from the past is that sometimes, these events tend to cause a profound change in us.
Most times, the change is so profound and painful that we do our best to rebel against it. We fight it incessantly till we get tired and obsessed and distracted from every other meaningful thing in our life.
○ Accept Your Reality
Again, in this case, acceptance is critical. Not all changes are bad. To go even further, not all changes from a bad event are bad.
Sometimes bad things happen to us, and we become a changed person for it, but this change can be a good thing. Traumatic events can leave us feeling down, but we rise and get better for it.
Life makes us tougher through challenges. They test us, they scare us, and they change us. The only way to move on and become better is to embrace these change parts and see them as strengths rather than weaknesses.
7. Forget About Regret and Think about Solutions Instead
It is easier to spend the aftermath of a mistake thinking about everything that went wrong. This isn’t even a bad thing on the whole. After all, without learning from our mistakes, we’re more prone to repeat them.
However, it becomes a problem when life gets hard and we spend too much time beating ourselves up about it, wallowing in self-pity, and drowning in regret.
Instead of doing all of these, the best thing to do is think about possible solutions.
○ Reflection & Obsession
What differentiates people who think about solutions from people who wallow in self-pity is simple. One focuses on reflection, while the other focuses on obsessive contemplations.
It is essential not to get both of these mixed up.
Reflection is when we analyze a particular past event to learn and become better for it. Obsession is when we continue to fixate and beat ourselves up for something that’s gone and finished instead of learning from it.
Successful people reflect. Unsuccessful ones fixate and obsess.
8. Have an Unattached Attitude towards Everything
Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on. – Eckhart Tolle
Learning not to be attached to people and things is always a great skill to master in life. When it comes to handling the past, this becomes even more important.
Once we learn to detach ourselves and find solace in who we are, the fundamental parts that we appreciate and realize can never change, we get better at dealing with mistakes.
The same also goes for successes. Appreciate the moment and keep pushing, but never get too attached.
9. Cultivate Thought Discipline
Let’s say we’ve done it. We’ve finally decided to move on. We’ve embraced ourselves and discarded harmful memories. We’re now thinking about solutions and ready to move on.
This is where thought discipline comes into play.
Our minds tend to wander when it’s not put in check. Those who don’t cultivate discipline will find themselves going back to these harmful memories without knowing, thereby undoing all the previous progress made.
This is why to move on completely, thought discipline should be a categorical imperative.
10. Cut toxic people out of your life completely
You need to cut toxic people out of your life completely. They are bad for your mental health and will drain you of all motivation. If there is someone in your life who is constantly bringing you down, do not hesitate to leave them behind and start a new chapter in your life.
Unlike positive people, toxic people come in many forms: they might be the person whose only mission is to criticize, they might be using you for their own benefit, or they might just bring you down with their pessimism. No matter what kind of toxic person we’re talking about, it’s important to remember that they are not worth keeping around for long.
Toxic people are not just a source of distraction, they are also a gateway towards relapsing and undoing any progress we may have towards moving on from the past.
11. Take Your Lessons with You
Lastly, and most importantly, always take your lessons with you. Mistakes are great when we learn from them. We need to take lessons with us from our past and apply them to the present. We must take responsibility for our mistakes and learn from them for a better future.
But despite what many think, learning is not the last part of the process.
After learning, we must ensure never to forget what we’ve learned. We should always have them in mind where we go, holding the lessons learned and not fixating on the mistakes made.
This is a time of change, which is often scary, but the only way we can grow as humans is to leave the past behind and create a new life for ourselves with only the lessons we have learned.
Moving on from the past is not an easy task. If it were, many people would not be finding it hard to do. Yet, given how vital the act is to shaping our future success in life, it is something that everyone must learn.
Once we make a conscious decision to move on, we must equally be reflective without being obsessive, cultivate discipline, be unattached, accept our reality, and always take our lessons with us.
We must be ready to leave the past behind and walk on to a new future. By doing this, we give ourselves the greatest chance to get rid of our demons and building a better future. The future is full of possibilities.
Every new day is a chance to reinvent oneself. No matter what happened yesterday.
Life is not just about waiting for the good moments to come. It’s about making the best out of every moment that passes by. It’s about fulfilling one’s dreams and walking on the path of success.
The past holds nothing for you except memories, so let them go and walk on to newer future with hope and faith!