It’s Time to Stop Thinking About the Past
Darko Bozic, B.A, M.Couns.
Why Can’t You Stop Thinking About Your Past?
No matter how hard we try to stop thinking about our pasts, there are things from our lives that will continually come back and remind us of where we came from, even if they’re unwanted memories.
Your past is always with you in one way or another. It’s either subconsciously weighing on you or consciously reminding you of what once was.
The problem with being stuck in the past is you miss out on living life now.
All your power is in the present moment. But if you’re living in the past, you’re cheating yourself out of it.
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Why We Need to Let Go of the Past
For most people, letting go means forgetting about the past so you can move on with your life.
While this may be true for some instances in life, there are also times where you need to hold on tight to the lessons learned from your past experiences as you move towards a better future.
Forgetting your past doesn’t mean saying goodbye and walking away; it’s learning from what happened and using those lessons to motivate growth.
Letting go of what causes us pain to progress towards a happier future is tough for some people.
But when you take time to reflect on where you’ve come from and why something may have hurt you, and how you can overcome it, those feelings lose their power over you.
How to Stop Thinking About the Past
1. Move Your Focus
We all have that place in our life where we wish we would have done something different.
It’s okay to feel bad about certain decisions and choices. How else are you going to learn if you never screw up?
Living in the past will only lead you to more regret, self-doubt, and self-criticism. So how do you move on?
The first step is changing your focus. Your mind can’t wholly focus on two things at once, and your life becomes a manifestation of what you focus on.
By choosing to move your focus from your past to your present and future, you bring a whole new world of thoughts, feelings, and desires into awareness.
2. Reframe Past Experiences
No matter how good or bad our memories are, we can’t change what happened.
The only thing that changes with time is the meaning you ascribe from those memories and how you let them affect you today.
That’s not to say the past doesn’t shape us; it certainly does.
But it shouldn’t keep us trapped or hesitant to take our future into our own hands.
It’s easier to move on mentally and emotionally when you reframe your past with gratitude and appreciation instead of anger or sadness.
Reframing your past means changing what you tell yourself about your story. Stop blaming yourself for things beyond your control. You can’t change your past.
But you can reframe your experience in a way that empowers you and helps you to make your future into something special.
3. Stop Being a Victim
We play the victim role when we feel sorry for ourselves because life isn’t going our way.
The problem is that people use external factors as an excuse for their unhappiness or lack of motivation because they don’t want to take responsibility for their lives.
If you find yourself constantly complaining about your circumstances and not doing anything to change them, You are a victim.
Victimhood is a disease that eats away at your happiness. It’s time to stop being a victim and take your future into your own hands.
4. Set New Goals That Excite You
“Massive action is the cure-all” – Anthony Robbins.
Setting new goals turns your point of focus from a negative past to a positive future.
When you set a clear intention and pursue it, your reality starts to form around it.
Your brain has infinite amounts of information coming at it per second through all your senses.
Your mind decides what to retain and delete based on what it deems to be most important to your desires and needs.
Facing towards your goals brings into conscious awareness the resources necessary to achieve that goal.
You start to notice things related to your intention and take on character traits congruent with who you want to be and what you want to do.
5. Keep a Balanced Perspective
It’s easy to let past mistakes and regrets hold you back from moving forward. To truly move on from your past, you need to put things into perspective.
Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the negative aspects of your history; instead, focus on the positive ones and don’t get too carried away with being a pessimist.
Keeping a perspective starts with a calm mind. Most things that happen aren’t as bad as we initially think, and they could ALWAYS be worse.
When you compare your experience with what could have happened, it might not seem as bad as you thought after all.
By keeping things in perspective, you’ll find it easier to forget about what happened before and only concentrate on what matters now: making a change for the better.
6. Change Who You Are
Changing who you are means upgrading your thoughts, beliefs, and personal characteristics to be more in line with the person you want to be now, instead of who you were yesterday.
Personal change starts inside by choosing to see things differently or in a more positive way.
Changing who you are doesn’t mean you’re a dreadful person; you also have positive traits that make you who you are.
But even at your best, there are always improvements you can make to some area of your life that needs work.
Personal change is a process that starts with awareness; once you have that, you can do whatever you want.
7. Talk it Out
Sometimes it can be challenging for people to move forward with their lives because they never learn how or when enough is enough. They keep going back to the past in their mind.
Instead of constantly revisiting the past and getting stuck on things we can’t change, why not try changing your perspective and look at it as a way of moving forward instead?
So how do you change that perspective? Start by talking about your situation with someone whose opinion you respect.
Talking out your problems can change the way you see a problem. Putting things into words clarifies your thoughts and feelings and can change/improve your emotional state going into the future.
8. Stay Busy
“An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”
The more you keep yourself occupied, the less time and space for negative thoughts and emotions.
If we stop moving, we give ourselves plenty of time to think about what’s gone wrong in our lives, and we start catastrophizing about the future.
But if we stay busy, doing new and challenging things, it becomes much easier to stay positive because our mind is occupied and focused on what makes us happy instead of sad.
9. Keep Your Mind and Body Strong
When our minds are weak, we become sensitive to unproductive thoughts and decisions.
If our bodies aren’t in great shape, we’re tired and fragile, so things bother us more than they should.
When you have a strong mind and body, your emotional state is confident and relaxed as you pursue your intentions and desires.
The past will always be with us. But reliving your past every day for the rest of your life will lead you nowhere.
10. Be Present
The only thing you should worry about is living in the moment, making sure you’re happy and doing your best with your current situation.
The act of living in the moment can be both freeing and difficult.
It is freeing because you can live fully without worrying about the past, free from painful thoughts that may have haunted you for years.
But it can also be difficult because there’s no way to predict what will happen next. We prepare ourselves for what comes our way by becoming self-aware.
Mindfulness makes you focus on what’s happening right now rather than dwelling on traumatic events from the past.
11. Change Your Environment
If things around you remind you of what happened in the past, it makes it harder for you to forget about it.
Instead of dwelling on what took place and reliving it every time, try changing your environment.
The past is a story you tell yourself. It’s natural, but it’s something you can change.
By going somewhere new where we can focus on ourselves and our future goals, we can forget about our past and move on healthily.
12. Write a Journal
Journaling is an effective way to process your past and let go of memories that don’t serve you anymore, by fleshing out your thoughts and feelings about them.
Journaling also identifies any negative patterns or behaviors that may be holding you back from achieving your goals.
Writing down what’s on your mind will help you be less stressed and more productive with your time.
You’re not wasting mental energy obsessing over events from long ago.
13. Design Your Destiny
You are in charge of the decisions you make and the paths you take.
In times of uncertainty, it is vital to have a plan. But many people don’t have any plan or know what they want from their lives.
Not having a plan or any tangible goals leads you to a life of frustration and dissatisfaction.
Designing your destiny is about making deliberate decisions with purpose.
You can shape your future by developing the life you want, taking action on your plan, taking care of yourself, knowing what matters to you, and making choices aligned with your goals and values.
Things to Remember
- Your past is always with you, either subconsciously weighing on you or consciously reminding you of what once was.
- It’s okay to feel bad about certain decisions and choices.
- It’s easier to move on mentally and emotionally when you reframe your past with gratitude and appreciation
- When you set a clear intention for yourself and pursue it, your reality starts to form around it.
- Keeping a perspective starts with a calm mind.
- Personal change starts inside by choosing to see things differently or in a more positive way.
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Best Quotes About Forgetting the Past
“Movement is life;’ and it is well to be able to forget the past, and kill the present by continual change” – Jules Verne
“Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements, and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping” – Ethel Barrymore
“Renew, release, let go. Yesterday’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can’t “should’ve” done something. You can only DO something” – Steve Maraboli
“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell
“Let go. Why do you cling to pain? There is nothing you can do about the wrongs of yesterday. It is not yours to judge. Why hold on to the very thing which keeps you from hope and love?” – Leo Buscaglia