You’ve heard it a million times: “live in the moment”. “Be more present”.
And it’s true. Living in the past is unhelpful. Constantly looking back at what you’ve lost, emotionally and physically, is futile, because it’s gone. It’s never coming back.
Being rooted in the past means missing out on fully living in the present. Your mind is never free of regret, of loss, of sadness, of what could have been.
Of course, looking back over your shoulder at good memories is positive, once in a while.
It’s great to reminisce over happy days gone by, as long as you’re creating new happy memories in the present and not creating a narrative that the “past was so much better and you’ll never be that happy again”.
That’s not a good place to be because you’re preventing yourself from moving forward. You’re staying in one place, rooted to the spot.
Okay, so, you get it; living in the past isn’t positive. But it’s more than that. It’s actually really pointless.
And here’s why…
Why Living in the Past Is Pointless
Having regret and feeling sadness over decisions we made, relationships we lost, and bad situations we got ourselves into is short-sighted.
We all do it from time to time, though, especially when things aren’t going our way in the present and we need a scapegoat.
It’s an easy excuse to blame our past actions for our failings in the present: “If only I’d done that differently my life would be better today”.
The thing is, that might well be true.
For example: if you committed a crime 10 years ago, you may still find it tough to get a job today. Depending on the type of crime, that might be pretty unfair.
Life isn’t fair, period.
But it’s still pointless looking back at that part of your life to apportion blame.
Because you were a different person back then!
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, as they say.
Of course you wouldn’t make those decisions now:
- You wouldn’t have committed that crime
- You wouldn’t have dropped out of college
- You wouldn’t have spent all that money
- You wouldn’t have hit that guy
- You wouldn’t have cheated on that girl
- You wouldn’t have had such an attitude problem!
But you’re different now. You have grown up. You have evolved, emotionally and spiritually.
This is life.
For some, this is a tougher pill to swallow than for others, because their mistakes are bigger and have more impact on the present. But that doesn’t change the fact that you can’t change the past.
It’s pointless carrying that emotional baggage around with you. It happened, and it happened because that was who you were back then.
A series of events took place in your life that led you to take a specific action and a specific time. On reflection it was avoidable, but at the time you didn’t avoid it because you were in a different frame of mind, with a different set of motivations, and a completely different outlook on life.
Upbringing, environment, insecurity, lack of confidence, fear; all these things may have played a part at the time.
Your mindset was different back then. You were younger and more emotionally charged, less patient, more reactive, and most likely dealing with a whole bunch of hormones pulling you in all directions.
So the bottom line is you were a different person, with a different mindset. So no matter what you would have liked to have done differently, you wouldn’t have done it differently anyway.
You can’t change the person you were back then, but you can recognize what you did and didn’t like about that person.
You can use the past as self-therapy to help you move forward and be happier in the present.
Don’t sit steeped in regret and “what ifs?” Instead, try understanding the kind of person you were and what personality traits and state of mind led to specific events that negatively impacted your life.
Work out why you became that person. What led to that action, reaction, insecurity, lack of confidence, depression, anxiety, etc.
When you begin to put this puzzle together, you will begin to forgive yourself. And that’s the most important thing here.
Because it’s that understanding and forgiveness that will help you move forward positively, in the present.
It has a knock-on effect, too.
You will find that you are able to be more understanding and forgiving to others, and that you have a newfound ability to help others move forward and let go.
As I always say: what other choice do you have? Time isn’t waiting for you.
Live your life now.