5 Mind-Blowing Tips on How to Learn From your Past.
It's undeniable that we all have moments throughout our life that we wish we could get a do-over; some of us more than others. Most of the mistakes we make are minor transgressions that we forget about within hours or days, while others have long-lasting effects that completely change the course of our lives. Nevertheless, we all have a past, and it's in our best interest to learn from it so that we can avoid mistakes, help others, or improve our future.
Although it mostly sounds negative, learning from your past doesn't necessarily mean only learning from your mistakes it can also mean learning from situations that went well so that you can repeat those positives in the future. If you have a past, which we all do, whether it be good or bad, you should be learning from it. Below are my top 5 tips on how to learn from your past.
Turn "L's" into Lessons
We all take losses or an "L" at some point or another in life. But taking an "L" doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing if that "L" that you took from your past troubles is a lesson. Each situation that happens provides you with at least two choices; one is to sulk and be regretful that things didn't happen the way you'd like them to, and the other is to extract information from that situation to use in the future to prevent yourself or someone else from going through the same problem.
Find Meaning in your Experiences
Think about this: had it not been for your past, certain aspects of your present and future wouldn't exist. Sure, there are some ways that your past has negatively affected your current circumstances. But to that same point, there are ways that your past has created situations and relationships that wouldn't have ever happened had you not gone through certain moments in your past. Always try to look at how your past has brought value to your life rather than focusing on the negatives.
Be Fair to Yourself
As a therapist, one thing I've noticed about most of the clients I've seen throughout my career is that they hold themselves to unfair double standards. They talk about the mistakes of the past, or how (insert the negative personality trait here) they are for situations that happened years ago; some people lament about how they "should" be much further along in life as if there are guidelines of what they should have accomplished at various points of their lives. The truth of the matter is that this kind of thinking is a highly toxic, self-destructive thinking style that serves you no purpose. It's dysfunctional and incredibly biased. When people think like this they hold a past version of themselves to present-day standards. You are no longer the person you were in the past. You know much more about life than you did back then. Therefore, it's unfair to judge your present-day self based on the decisions or circumstances of your younger self.
Look at your Past as a Blueprint for your Future
While it is important to look at your mistakes from the past to know what not to do in the future, it's also important to reflect on successes from your past so that you can do more of what helped you succeed. In other words, look back on what worked in the past, and do more of that. So often people overthink and deviate from what helped them in the past. Sometimes, the best policy is to keep it simple. Don't try to re-invent the wheel. Analyze the positives from your past; ask yourself what was your mentality, how did you behave, what were your values, then look for opportunities to replicate those actions.
Each Day is a New Day
Sometimes the best way to learn from your past is to leave it exactly where it is: in the past! It's easy to go down a mental rabbit hole of thinking about what you've done wrong or could have done better when you constantly think about the past. You have to let the idea rest well within you that the past no longer exists. Our only true reality is the present. The past is history, and the future is simply imagination. The most important time period is the present, the here and now, for it is the only time period you can truly control.
Staying present-focused is vital to your overall mental wellbeing. If you're stuck in the past or even the future you're not living in reality. And not living in reality is a slippery slope because your thoughts can easily be manipulated by your emotions. Your emotions will dictate the way you perceive things rather than what is happening at the moment, which will naturally cause you to misinterpret situations and make irrational judgments which will lead to more problems. That is a catch-22. You may have heard the statement. "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" well the same goes for our thoughts about your past. If you can't think of anything good, it's best to not think of it at all.
Regardless of how you view your past, one thing is certain: you can't change it. Never dwell on your past, use it to create a better future. It doesn't matter if you've had a past full of mistakes, trauma, or regrets, each day you get another chance to travel a new path, so don't waste time fretting over time that has already passed. Accepting and learning from your past is empowering, which ultimately gives you the most control over your future.