“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.”-Robert Frost
Think about the last time something “bad” happened to you. Remember the thoughts that raced through your mind:
- Why me?
- This is terrible
- I’m so unlucky
- Poor me
Now think about the days and weeks that followed:
- Did you “get over” it fast or did it torment you every day?
- Did you learn from it or did you sweep it under the rug?
Now consider where you are this very moment:
- Are you better now because of what happened?
- Did you learn from your struggle?
- Are you stronger?
- Are you happy?
- Is your past now just a memory, minor insignificance?
And now, the million dollar question:
Could it have been worse?
(Hint: It could have. It always can be worse.)
Let me tell you something about your past: it only exists in your mind; it is a memory and gone forever never to return. The memories of your past may or may not bring you feelings of joy, pain, happiness, or regret. What it brings you depends on how you think of these memories. It’s all perception, and in case you didn’t know or you’ve yet to appreciate this fact: perception is entirely up to you.
You are better or worse because of your past. You are smarter, wiser, and bolder, or you are scared, hurt, and depressed because of what has happened to you in your life up to this point.
And this is completely up to you!
You have the power to change how you feel about your past. You can make it a source of motivation and inspiration, or you can make it a source of misery and regret. It all comes down to choice. You choose by the thoughts that play through your head when you think of your past. If you don’t like your past, change your thoughts about it so you can use it for good. If you do like your past, find the lessons that may be hidden within so you can live the best possible future.
When thinking about life, the “why” isn’t always that easily explained. Life is unfair and cruel, and as cliche, as the saying goes: That’s life.
Nature is not fair. Nature doesn’t give a damn about you or she or him or her. It is what it is: random and varied. Life can be represented via the bell curve—sometimes you are on the far left, the right far, the middle, or somewhere in-between each of these points. Some people get this while some get that, and this is out of our control. Yes, I do believe that you can make choices that will help you get to the part of the bell curve you want to get to, but there is still no guarantee you will get there. Life will happen as it wants to happen; random and without giving a crap about what you deem “right,” “wrong,” “fair,” or “unfair.”
This is one reason why it’s time you stop dwelling on the negative to your past and instead focus on the positive. Instead of thinking about what you got or didn’t get from a negative point of view, focus on what you got or didn’t get from a positive point of view. For example, you didn’t die, so that’s something you didn’t get that you could have. Be grateful for that, and the fact that you are alive right now. On top of not dying, you didn’t have your left thumb cut off by some demented torturer guy. Something to be thankful for, no? In addition to not dying and not getting your left thumb cut off, there are about a trillion other things that didn’t happen to you that could have. It’s simple: be grateful for the things that didn’t go super wrong and this will shift your perspective of what did go wrong. Soon your wrong won’t seem so bad. You might even be able to see how you actually learned something from what went wrong. When this happens—which is the goal—you have started the change. From here, the sky is the limit: your past, no matter how terrible, can be a source of learning and motivation for living in the now to the best of your ability. And since the now is all we ever have, does that not seem like a good thing?
By changing your perception of your past, you not only give yourself the power to learn and draw inspiration from it, but you also get to let go of the pain that is attached to your past that is holding you back from growing into the person you are capable of becoming. It is often our past that is the lead ball attached to our inner demons. Remove the weight and you can let go of the burden—or at least start the process.
Of your past, always ask yourself, “Could it have been worse?”
Life Fact: Your past is your greatest motivation for living life now, or it is a ball and chain that is dragging you down. You decide which.
I’m not going to tell you that a mindset shift is easy when contemplating your past. It’s not. In fact, it might be one of the hardest things you ever do. But it’s absolutely necessary for living a full life.
You might think you can just “forget” the past. But as many who have tried this—and failed—will tell you, it doesn’t work. Forgetting is not the answer. Our brains are not like a hard drive that we can just “reformat” or “delete” to remove parts of memory. Our conscious and subconscious mind is too complicated of an instrument to pull off forgetting successfully. Until we have the technology/ability to “erase” bad memories from our conscious and subconscious mind, we will have to take the old fashion route of dealing with our past productively.
The truth of your past:
- The past is gone forever and there is nothing you can do about it. (You can’t change it, and so you have to accept it.)
- The only power you have over your past is how you think about it. (And that’s where your power lies.)
Since these are the rules that govern your past, you have no choice but to change how you think about your past or it will forever be a lead ball dragging you down and holding you back.
No matter how unexplainable, unjust, or inhumane your past happens to be, it can still be the greatest source of motivation and inspiration for living in the now. You must decide to use your past as a source of inspiration and motivation through expressing gratitude instead of regret.
When you make this monumental shift in thinking, you have the template for massive change in your life. And I mean MASSIVE. As you start making this shift in perception, you start to see that your past has a purpose. You might even learn how to appreciate your past for making you the person you are today. (Which sounds like a paradox, but when you get there, you’ll understand what I mean.)
The purpose of your past is to grant you the ability to live as best as you can now.
That’s it, that’s the big secret to life and our experience through it. Your past is the night and today is the day. Both are necessary for defining the other. Life is yin and yang; it is balance. To experience the good, you have to experience the bad. To appreciate the good, you have to appreciate the bad. This is the law of positive and negative, and you cannot escape it no matter how hard you try. And this is why you absolutely must embrace it. Embrace it with all your being.
When pain comes your way, say to it: “I will take you Pain, because I know you serve a purpose. And after I have taken you, I will be stronger, better, wiser, and happier as a result. Thank you Pain, I’m now better for you having visited me. Until we meet again, so long and farewell.”
Think About it
Take a moment to think about it: If you never experience a bad feeling, how will you know how blissfully awesome it is to experience a good feeling? You can’t! They are each completely dependent on the other.
(Spend a bit of time thinking about this and you will see that much of what we do in life is in vain because of this simple concept.)
When you bitch, gripe or complain about your past (or present), what you are really saying is, “I don’t understand the duality of life. I’m dumb.”
The wise understand that pain is good, and necessary. And they understand that there is no situation in life, other than your death, that you cannot benefit from.
You may think you have a terrible past, maybe you did, but I know that you are alive because you are reading this and thus I know that your past could have been worse because you would be dead if it was the absolute worst! Now, it’s time to focus on the fact that you are alive and breathing and not dead and gone. As I’ve already said, it's a choice.
Make the choice. Focus on the positive, on the useful. Forget the rest.
No matter what you have gone through in life, you have the opportunity to put it behind you and create a better life now. Each day you waken you are given the opportunity to experience love and friendship and kindness. You get to enjoy food, sex and laughter. You get to appreciate art and beauty. You wake to a world full of opportunity. You get to relish in these gifts as well as the fact that you have survived your past and you are alive and well. If you choose to see the world and your life as anything but the amazing thing that it is, you have failed. It’s like Tony Robbins says to me every morning when I listen to his Personal Power program, “What’s wrong is always available, but so is what’s right.”
Focus on what’s right.
Life and Problems and Perception
A week from now, your problems will be a week behind you soon to be replaced with a new set of problems. If you let this cycle repeat, you will live a life of perpetual, self-inflicted torment till the end of your days. Make the choice: Your past (and present) can rule you or you can rule it.
Reflect on your past and make the best out of even your worst situations. Take solace in the truism of life: It goes on.
No matter what is happening, or has happened, to you, your life will go on and you will get through it if you make the choice to get through it.
Life goes on. It doesn’t care about you. You have to care about you. You have to make meaning out of what happens to you and your life. The world isn’t going to give you a pat on the back and say “poor you” here’s my shoulder and a Kleenex. It’s actually going to do the opposite: It’s going to keep kicking you in the ass if you let it. The only way you cope is to get stronger and better. The only way to own it is to focus on what’s right, what’s useful, what’s positive.
Yours in Life,
- Colin Stuckert