My last Building Resilience Update described three powerful questions that shift one’s focus from being stuck in the past, to creating a more engaging and optimistic future (click here).
I received many comments from readers, one of whom said that for her, being stuck in the past, and angrily going over and over what happened, was like drinking poison each day and hoping the other person will die!
It prompted me to now write specifically about how to let go and move on.
Here are five things to do to right now:
1. Ask yourself the three questions
• How can I accept this? or
• Is there some opportunity in this? or
• What can I learn from this?
The answers to one or more of the questions will shift your focus from the unhappy past to creating a different future for yourself.
Action step: Ask yourself the questions, one-by-one, to find an answer that makes sense to you and helps shift your focus to the future.
2. Pause and decide
Our amygdalae has conditioned us for an immediate fight, flight or hide response. That was really useful in our ancient past, but is much less useful in today’s world to deal with the complex relationships and problems we face. So don’t react in old ways if they don’t serve you well. Take time to consider what response will serve you best.
Action step: Pause. Breathe. Take a break. Decide how you would like to react.
3. Focus on today
If what has happened in the past is not helping you in the present, then it should stay in the past. It does not have to determine your future. You have the power to determine whether your focus will slip back to an upsetting past event, or to put it behind you and create a different future.
Action step: Be mindful of what is happening in your environment and who is around you right now. Think of something different.
4. Take charge
People sometimes highlight negative aspects of their past to explain their situation, or to gain sympathy, or to justify not fulfilling promises. The logic behind this is it’s not my fault, it’s someone else’s fault. In other words, the reason for our misery is that we can’t change what other people have done to us and thus we are prisoners of the past. Fortunately that’s rubbish. You are the only person responsible for yourself. No one else is responsible for you, who you are and what you have become.
Action step: Decide what you can change, and change it. Change what you think. Do something different. Exercise. Change your scenery.
5. Change yourself
I must confess to sometimes thinking that particular people would greatly benefit from being changed! I know however that I don’t have power to change them. I can only change myself and the way I react to them.
Action step: Decide to let go, and even if you slip back, let go again.
You can’t change the past, so accept it. Or find some opportunity in it. Or learn from it. Let go. Move on. Put your energy into changing the future. Change may feel scary, but contrast that with how scary it is not to change and remain as you are.
What works for you in letting go of the past and moving on?