This morning I saw this quote while scrolling through Facebook posts – Never be defined by your past…it was just a lesson, not a life sentence.
The quote, which appears in multiple places, was not attributed to anyone in any of them.
There are two key things to take away from that bit of wisdom –
- Learn from your past, so that you don’t repeat your mistakes, and
- Move on from those mistakes instead of letting them hold you back or define you.
People who dwell on the past in regret or remorse can easily slip into depression, because they see no way out of the despair in which they feel that they are stuck and cannot move on.
It is important that one stop beating up themselves trying to imagine what they might have done differently to change the outcome of a situation gone bad. It happened. It is over. Now is the time to focus upon learning from it. Instead of fretting about what could I have done differently then; focus upon learning from it so that you can do differently if and when (it happens again).
Many people allow their past to define boundaries or limits on their future. For them there are places that that they do not allow themselves to go again, because the last time they went there they failed and it is was painful. They have painted themselves into a corner. For some that includes allowing themselves to love others. To love someone else is to open yourself up to the possibility and pain of rejection. However, the difference between liking and loving someone demands that level of commitment. One cannot experience the pleasure of true love, without accepting the risks inherent in laying one’s soul bare to the other party.
The other boundaries that some allow their past to define involve things like careers or sports or interpersonal relationships. I recently read a series of responses to a Facebook post made by people who had experienced prejudices based upon their past jobs. They had all been stereotyped by others because they had served as baristas in coffee shops at some point in their lives. One respondent is now a doctor and another a Vice-President of a large technology company. They refused to be confined by their past jobs.
Many people get comfortable in the niche in life that their past seemingly dictates, be it a job or a relationship. They find it easier to just continue moving in that direction, rather than exploring the possibilities that different directions offer. They are moving through life on momentum rather than making an effort to change for the better.
There was a 60’s hit by Peggy Lee titled “Is that all there is?”. The song was used on an episode of the TV show Mad Men as sort of a theme song for the malaise of the 1960’s. It is a sad and poignant story that many people who are confined by their past seem to identify with. I prefer to look ahead to new and different things and to see the world like Louis Armstrong in his song – “What a wonderful world”.
How about you? Are you confined by your past? Let go of it, because that is not all there is – there is a wonderful world out there if you just reach for it.
That is the lesson that we should all take away.