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Stop Looking to Your Past to Inform Your Future

Aug 10, 2022

It is human nature to want to look to your past to gain evidence for what you are capable of in your future. We are all shaped by our experiences growing up, the messages we received about ourselves, and the results we have gotten in our lives up until this point. “Failures” from our past are opportunities for growth but are often viewed as indicators of what we are not capable of. Negative messages we received about ourselves growing up can become beliefs that we hold as ultimate truths and experiences we had in the past, may cause us to avoid certain things in the present or in the future.


While there is valuable information you can gather from your past, it does not inform your future. There are lessons to be learned, however, the person you are today, is not the person you were in the past. The capabilities you have today, are not the same ones you had in the past. What others have told you about who you are or what you are capable of in the past, are not ultimate truths. In fact, you are not the same person you were yesterday. Since that time, you have had new experiences, maybe learned something new, or did something new that changed who you are in just one day.


There is a reason the rearview mirror is smaller than the windshield. When you are driving somewhere, you need to be looking forward. You need to be paying attention to what is ahead so that you get to where you want to go. You are not looking at the rearview mirror ruminating about the red light you had to stop at, the pothole you drove over, the driver who was driving slowly in front of you a mile back, or to see if you made any mistakes along your route. You are looking forward and that is the same place you should be looking in your life. Babies don’t look to their past and say, “Well…because I did not know how to walk yesterday, I guess I will just not be a walker”. When they fall ten times, babies don’t say, “Well…I guess I am not capable of walking so I will stick with crawling”. They keep trying and looking forward without looking to their past capabilities to inform them of what they are capable of today or in the future.


At some point as we grow up, we begin to doubt ourselves, we begin to see our failures as permanent limitations, and we begin to hold criticism from others as the truth. The reality is that you are capable of growing and changing every single day. There are many things you can do today that you may have one day thought you were not capable of. Instead of looking backwards and telling yourself that you are not capable of doing something, what if you asked yourself questions that pulled your forward?


If you find yourself ruminating about negative things from your past or looking to the past to inform you of what you are capable of today or moving forward, try asking yourself one or more of the questions below.

  • What would I need to think about myself if I knew I could be  successful in doing ____?
  • What would I need to learn in order to be successful in doing ____?
  • What is something I can do today that I did not think I was capable of doing in the past?
  • If failure were not an option, what is the next step I would take?
  • If I was not afraid of people judging me, what actions would I be taking?
  • The things I will learn about myself if taking action on this goal may be _____.
  • What is the best possible outcome if I give this a shot?


When you ask questions that focus on possibilities, you generate different thoughts and different feelings which results in different actions that move your forward instead of holding you back. If you notice yourself looking to your past to decide whether you will take action moving forward, shift gears and look at your present and to your future. You don’t know what you are capable of yet but know that you are always capable of more.


If you want to learn about 5 common thoughts distortions,  you can grab my free guide, 5 Common Thought Distortions, HERE. In this guide I cover 5 common thought distortions that could be holding you back including Filtering, Overgeneralizations, Black and White Thinking, Catastrophizing, and Mind Reading. I walk you through how your brain works, why these thought distortions occur, and specific strategies you can use for each to change them.  You can grab it HERE.


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