One of the biggest mistakes people can make is living in the past rather than the present, I know this because I was once one of those people, in fact for a long time was one of those people. Due to an injury to my wrists which I suffered back in 2008, an injury which has blighted me since that time culminating in me for a period during 2020 losing complete use of both hands – thankfully I am now slowly regaining some use. Anyway I’m digressing, due to that injury I found myself frequently living in the past.
I lived in a world where I could still use my hands like everyone else, my mind was unable to compute even the thought of not returning to exactly how I was in the past. But it was always impossible to return to that point, I could get close but never back to one hundred percent, and in reality my efforts to return to that point and my refusal to not accept that I had to do things differently because I couldn’t get back to one hundred percent, simply compounded the problem that I had.
So by living in the past, I was hindering my present and future. Now there are millions of posts out there which talk about how important it is to live in the present rather than the past, I know this because I have read a lot of them. And one thing I have found is that views for how to live in the present rather than the past vary greatly. Some people say you need to forget the past, some people say you need to remember the past because that’s how you accept it, and I could go on and on about all the different methods people propose for how to live in the present rather than the past.
I’m not going to do that, what I’m going to do is tell you what worked for me. With that said let’s get to it, first thing’s first I am massively against the idea of trying to forget your past, to me the notion is madness. That’s because rather than helping you to move on, if you try to forget your past as a means to get over it, all you will do is spend your lifetime running from something that you can’t run from, meaning you will spend your lifetime as prey to a predator that will grow stronger with each passing day.
And here’s why, it’s impossible to forget the past, and that’s because the past is what defines your present, which is why if you had bad things happen in the past it can be very hard to not think about them and to not let them play a part in your present. Or rather your present is as it is because of your past therefore it is impossible to run from what created your life as it is now, the reason being literally everything around you tells the story of your past because it is what led you to your present.
Another reason why it is impossible to forget your past is because if something bad happened inevitably you don’t want it to happen again. In which case how can you run from something which you will be putting much energy into making sure does not happen again? You can’t, which is why in my view trying to forget your past is not a good idea namely because it is impossible.
Though it must be said, people who find themselves living in the past are not always people trying to forget or run from traumatic events, quite the opposite in fact, most are people like me, that is people who want to recreate something from their past. For me it was regaining the full use of my hands, for others it may be feeling the love that they once felt from a partner, or feeling the joy of their youth again, or even having a second chance to do a certain thing or things differently.
And the reasons for why people find themselves stuck in the past rather than the present don’t stop there, another popular reason is a stroke of bad luck stops a person from achieving something that they felt that they deserved to achieve, and they can’t get over the fact that it happened and they lost out. In fact I’d imagine that everyone in a way suffers from this one.
And I could go on and on listing all the many reasons why people find themselves stuck in the past, but I’m not going to, what I’m going to do now is start offering some solutions for how to get out of the past and back into the present. Or rather specifically the solution that I found that most helped me to stop living in the past, and that is to stop lingering on the past in a negative manner.
How I turned the negatives in my past into positives
If I lingered on the past in a negative manner, like I used to, I could think about the time that I first injured my wrists, I could think about the fact that if I had not injured them then when I finished university back in 2009, rather than being unable to attend the job interview that I had down in London which due to my injuries I had to pass on, I could have attended that interview. And that interview was for a pretty amazing job, so to not be able to attend it was a crushing blow.
I could linger on the fact that if I had got the job, and the odds were favourable, right now I could be sitting on a yacht as a multimillionaire investment fund manager, with a beautiful wife and a couple of children for company. I could linger on the fact that instead of this, due to the severity of my injuries, and despite being in my 30s, I am living with my parents, who are once again aiding me with my rehab and everyday living because at current without a massive amount of support living would be impossible.
I could linger on these facts and so much more because they are true, and they are my present. But I would be foolish to, because there is a far better way to see my past, a way that turns my past into a positive rather than a negative, that turns everything that you just read there into a positive.
It may be hard to believe but it is possible I know it because it’s what I do. In terms of how, this is how, when I think of living in the present, I don’t think about just accepting the past and moving on, I think about how I can use the past as a means to learn how to create a better future. And I do this by removing what I call the rose tinted view of the past that so many of us have. For example, I said that if I had not injured my wrists rather than living with my parents I could have been sitting on a luxury yacht as a multimillionaire.
Could have been, that is the word, could have been. But I may not have been, I could have been worse off, there is no way of knowing. However, what I do know is that I’m very lucky to have such a supporting and loving family, this injury has proven just how lucky I am because without their support my odds of recovering would have been a lot less than they are. In fact, if I’d had this injury while solo living and did not have a support network then I would have been in big big trouble. That means that this injury has proven beyond any doubt how lucky and privileged I am to have such a supportive and loving family, and above all just how supportive and loving a family my family are. Without this injury, I may have believed that I had this, but I would never have known for certain. Now I do.
Hopefully you can see the point I’m making, the way we think about things is so important. For example, the job interview that I was unable to attend, how do I know that if I had been able to it, that while driving down to London that I would not have had a car crash and perhaps as a result suffered an even graver injury, or perhaps even have lost my life? I don’t. But I do know because of the fact that I got injured I took up creative writing which I very much love, I don’t know whether I would have taken this up anyway, maybe I would have done, maybe I would not have, I have no idea which is why pondering whether I would have or would not have done would be pointless. Which is why it is better to simply focus on the fact that it happened and I did.
All we can ever know is the reality. The reality in this case is I got injured, as an outlet I started writing creatively. Whether I would have taken this up had I not got injured is irrelevant, all that matters is that I took up creative writing as an outlet because of the injury. That means the reality is in my world my injury led to me taking up creative writing which is a positive because it makes me happy.
That means that as a result of my injury I now am a creative writer, also, as said I now know beyond any realm of doubt that I truly do have an unbelievably loving and supportive family. Would these things have happened anyway, I have no idea, and that’s the point. For all I know by getting injured and missing that job interview, my life could have been saved both figuratively and literally i.e. without it I may never have taken up creative writing and may have died in a car crash. Which means all the times that I used to sit around lamenting the fact that I got injured in the first place and because I got injured I missed out on that job interview, I could have been lamenting a fact that saved my life.
The fact is I have no way of knowing what could have been only what has been, which is why it is pointless lingering on what could have been, and is better to focus only on what has been. And while focusing on what has been it’s always better to look for the positives in it.
That means to me the key for how to not live in the past, is not to forget the past, but to transform the past into a positive. You either succeed, or you learn, both are positives. And it doesn’t matter what has happened in the past it can be turned into a positive. For example, perhaps you lament not taking an opportunity when you had the chance, use this as a positive, for example you could say to yourself that, you have learned that when you get an opportunity you should take it. So use the past missed opportunity as fuel to make certain that you take the next one.
Even having had cancer can be turned into a positive, not the cancer itself, but surviving it. The key to always living in the present, is never letting your past be a negative, because the moment your past becomes a negative is the moment you stop living in the present and become lost to the past. And a life lived in the past is a life not lived. I used to be one of those people who were stuck in the past, the reason I’m able to write this post is because I’m now living in the present.
I stopped looking at the past in a negative way, and I stopped looking at all the things that I couldn’t do and all the bad things that had happened and started looking at all the things that I could do and all the good things that could still happen, for example, I’m using voice dictation software to write this post, that means hands or not I can do what I most enjoy.
I could lament the fact that using voice dictation software is a hassle, I could lament how it makes getting grammar and punctuation right a nightmare – in fact it makes it close to impossible. But where would doing so get me? Nowhere. Which is why I focus only on the fact that it helps me do what I love, which is write. That is what living in the present is, not lingering on the what could have beens, but focusing on the positives of the things that are and can be.
And the good thing is, everyone has the power to do this, to start with it won’t feel easy, but the more you do it the happier you will feel and therefore the easier it will be to do it, the reason being you will realise that embracing this way of thinking is the most rewarding thing you can do. And rather ironically once we realise that doing something difficult rewards us it suddenly becomes a lot easier to do.
That’s all for me for today, stay safe!