We all experience disappointments, heartaches and setbacks. That’s an unfortunate part of life.
When overcommitted and overworked however, we become particularly vulnerable to reliving past regrets all over again. If this unpleasant rumination is not stopped, we easily get sucked into a downward spiral of negative thoughts and feelings.
If this happens to you, here are seven techniques to let go of the past and move on:
1. 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 choice to determine whether your focus will slip back to the upsetting past event, or create a future without it.
Action step: Be mindful of what is happening in and around you right now. The present is all you have. The past is the past, but your future will be greatly influenced by your focus today.
2. Determine what “being stuck” does to you
Think about the negative impact on you of being stuck in the past.
Action step: Write a list of the negative impacts of you being stuck in the past has on you and on others.
3. Take charge
People sometimes use their past to rationalise their situation, or to gain sympathy, or to justify not fulfilling promises. The underlying logic is you can’t blame me as its not my fault. In other words, the reason for our misery is that we can’t change what other people have done to us and we are prisoners of the past.
Fortunately that’s rubbish of course. You are the only person responsible for yourself. No one else is responsible for you, who you are and what you are.
Action step: Decide what you can change, and change it. For example, change where you put your attention. Do something different. Exercise. Change your scenery.
4. Understand the other person
If another person was involved in the upsetting past, it sometimes helps to see the other side of the coin.
Action step: Try to understand the motives of the person who hurt you. From their perspective, why do you think they did what they did? What do you think motivated them? What pressures could they have been under?
5. Identify the choice you have
You may not have had a choice in what happened, but you always have a choice in how you react to what happened. You can react with bitterness and blame or to let go and move on.
Action step: Ask yourself: what are the choices you have and what is the best way to react? A year from now, how would you like to look back on this?
Asking yourself the three powerful questions is also useful in restructuring your thoughts. They are:
- How do I come to terms with this and accept it?
- What can I learn from this?
- Is there an opportunity to move forward?
6. Commit to not reliving the hurt
The hardest part to letting go is not reliving the past experience. Sometimes the more you try not to relive the event, the more you may seem to encourage thinking about it!
Action step: In the moment you relive the unhappy experience, try to accept the negative thoughts and feelings as a natural response to what has happened. Don’t try to supress or ignore them. What are they signalling to you about yourself and the way you are living your life? Are they telling you that you need to do something or change something?
7. Commit to moving on
Make the decision to let go of the past and move on.
Action step: Decide that you are going to leave the past with its negative thoughts and emotions behind. Commit yourself to letting go and moving on.
You can’t change the past, so accept it. Or find some opportunity from the experience. Or learn from it. Let go. Move on. Put your energy into changing your future.
Change may feel scary, but contrast that with how scary it is not to change and remain stuck in the past.
Are there things in your past that you need to let go of in order to move on?
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