“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way” – Henry David Thoreau
“Focusing on your history robs you of your destiny” – Bishop T.D. Jakes
It is human nature to review our past. After all it is what has led us to where we are today.
Our past is familiar. We know what happened (at least our version of what happened) and the future is unknown and scary.
Looking in our rearview mirrors is especially common when we are coming out of a marriage or a relationship. We play it over and over again. What could I have done differently? How could they have done that to me?
The danger is that we spend so much time looking at what’s behind us that we find ourselves stuck in place, or worse, we crash because we are not focused on where we are going.
Here are 7 ways to get your eyes back on the road in front of you.
1. Forgive Yourself
You made mistakes – guess what? We all have. In most cases, everyone (including you) is doing the best that they can in the moment.
Guilt can cause a major traffic jam on your highway of life.
Forgive yourself, because really what choice do you have?
There is no time machine, you can’t go back and change anything that happened. Accept what “is” right now.
Whatever you think you need to beat yourself up over, it was all part of your journey. But it’s the part of the journey that is behind you now. Forgive yourself and be free to move forward.
2. Forgive Others
I’m sure by now you’ve heard the expression that holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Forgiveness is something you do for yourself not to absolve the other person of their transgressions.
Easier said than done, right?
How do you let all that anger and resentment go?
The best way that I have found is to pray for them.
Ask that they be relieved of their struggles and that they find true happiness. This might be very difficult for you. I know.
You might have to “fake it” until you can “make it” for awhile.
If you can’t even bring yourself to fake the sincerity of this prayer, than pray for the willingness to do so. And if even that is too much, pray for the willingness to be willing.
The point is to start somewhere. As you work on this, someday you will realize that you really do hope the best for the person and you will have freed yourself of the poison.
3. Realize You are Not Your Thoughts
You know how you can be laying in bed, trying to fall asleep and your mind is racing 100 miles per hour, going from thought to thought?
Your awareness that this is going on (and keeping you awake) is the “real” you. Don’t let yourself become enmeshed with those thoughts.
Picture the ocean. Your thoughts are the waves on the surface. But underneath the waves, in the depths of the ocean it is calm and silent – that is your true self.
No matter how choppy the surface gets, or how big a storm is brewing – you can always return to that place of calm and silence under the surface.
So the next time you feel your thoughts driving you in reverse, STOP, put it in neutral, and reconnect with your inner calm.
Do you know the one word that you should eliminate from your vocabulary? Keep reading because getting rid of this word will really help.
4. Ban the Word Should From Your Vocabulary
As in “I should…” or “I should have…”.
As we discussed above, we don’t have access to a time machine so wallowing in “I should haves” is a waste of time and energy and it prevents you from accepting where you are now.
“I should” takes away your power – this applies to “I have to” as well.
Everything is a choice. You may not like the choices you have in front of you, but it is a choice.
Realize this, own it, and get on with it.
Using the word should and then not following through on the thing you “should” do, only leads to guilt trips and to you feeling bad about yourself.
“I will“ and “I won’t” are all you need to know.
5. Do the Next Right Thing
Sometimes we get stuck in the past because it is easier than dealing with the present and the future.
We feel overwhelmed by all the “stuff” we need to get done. Not only the things we need to do to make it through the day, but all the things we need to do to secure the future that we want.
When you start to feel that overwhelm creeping in, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What is the next right thing I need to do?”
You can use this when you are feeling overwhelmed by everyday tasks such as putting dinner on the table where the next right thing might be opening up the pantry and seeing what you have available.
You can also use this for bigger goals such as deciding what you want to do with your life. Maybe the first next right thing is to take a skills or personality test. Then the next right thing would be to research a career choice and on and on.
The point is to break every task up into little steps and then do them one at a time. Don’t let the whole process overwhelm and confuse you.
Go from point A to point B then decide on point C. Don’t let your mind wander to point Z and convince you the journey is too hard or will take too long.
6. Allow Yourself to Grieve – But Not For Too Long
Sometimes you just have a crappy day or you may find your thoughts continuing to get stuck in the past no matter how hard you try.
When this happens, give yourself permission to feel those emotions – but put a time limit on it.
Whether you need a night on the couch with your good friends Ben & Jerry or you need to lock yourself in the bathroom and have a good cry – do it.
The trick is to know that this is a limited time offer. When the time is up, you will face the world again.
You will feel better for having gotten it all out and you will be ready to move on. As time goes on, you will find that you need these grief breaks less often.
7. Notice the Feel of the Road
There are a lot of roadblocks and speed bumps on the road to your destiny. Some of them may look like cute little fruit stands that you should pull over and visit.
This is where getting silent and checking in with your inner spirit is so important.
Are you distracting yourself with projects to keep yourself too busy to tackle the next right step on your journey?
Are you letting fear show up by telling you that there is no way you can afford to take that class that you know in your heart is something you would really love to do?
Yes, you may have lots of commitments and responsibilities and yes, finances may be an issue – but you have to start somewhere.
Promise yourself you will tackle one next right thing on your bigger journey every day (or every week) and schedule it in.
Start putting away $25 dollars a week to be able to take that class in a year.
Put those intentions out there so that the Universe can help you reach your goals, otherwise you are just slamming on the brakes before you know what much further you can go.
You are the driver of your own destiny. Don’t let the rearview mirror keep you stuck in where you have been.
Enjoy the scenery, follow the speed limit – but keep moving forward.
Photo Credit: Katie Poole
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