Remember Frozen? Time was when people were belting Let It Go, be it off-key videoke or professional cover. But I would disagree with Queen Elsa. There are things we really can’t let go.
Take our past, for instance. Motivational speakers and counselors would tell us to “let go” of what we don’t like about our personal histories.
Has someone hurt us? Let it go.
Are we regretting over a certain career choice? Let it go.
Did we lose our shirt because the pandemic ruined our business? Let it go.
But we really cannot let them go, because our present flows from our past. We are where we are now due to a complex flux of choice and circumstances. We cannot escape cause and effect. Unless we have a time machine and start over, the past won’t let us go.
We still wince from the hurt.
We’re still unhappy at work.
We’re still broke.
So what do we do? Let me suggest three steps.
- Make peace with your yesterday.
Since we can’t let go of our past, we will have to live with our past. The real question is how? With blessing or bitterness? With gratitude or grumbling? With redemption or regret?
In my book Regret No More, I teach that we make a peace pact with ourselves. Think of it as being at war with guilt, anxiety, or sorrow. The irony is that we raise these enemies within ourselves, for example, the inner critic. We declare a cessation of hostilities. We may even write down a literal treaty, if we want to.
The next time we sense the enemy creeping back, we hold up the treaty and tell the negative emotion “Hold it right there. This says you will stop.” Then imagine the enemy, shamed, slinking away.
- Become a better person today.
We are not the same people we were five, ten, or twenty years ago. That’s because life continues to shape our personalities, perceptions and priorities. Ideally, we grow in love and wisdom as the years roll by. Yes, that includes the past.
Therefore, leverage the past for your maturity.
Did the hurt deepen your empathy?
Has the career mistake revealed what you really want in life?
Will the failed business train you how to bounce back?
There are priceless lessons that can be learned only through the college of hard knocks. Don’t waste the tuition.
- Create an exciting tomorrow.
We cannot change what happened before. But we can decide what happens next. So take the best pieces of your past and match them with the opportunities of the present.
The hurt can open doors to unparalleled service.
The career mistake may be a detour that leads you to your true calling.
The failed venture will remind you that purpose is more important than profit.
It is not really true that January 1st is New Year’s Day. Every morning heralds the next 365 days of your life. As we would do with the literal January 1st, be brimming with hope.
Dream again. Dream big. Take the calculated risk. Explore the untrodden path. Forge strong relationships. In so doing, you have made the past your friend.
You really cannot let it go. But you have successfully lived with it.
God bless you.
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Had the first man not given up too soon, he would be rich beyond his wildest dreams.
A man was strolling through his land and found a nugget of gold on the ground. Excitedly, he grabbed a shovel and began digging around. He dug dozens of pits. He dug wide and he dug deep. But instead of more gold, he only uncovered more dirt.
Fatigued and disgusted, he sold his hole-ridden property to someone else.
The new owner took a closer look at one of the holes. Out of curiosity, he dug a few inches further down and discovered what turned out to be a rich vein of gold. Had the first man not given up too soon, he would be rich beyond his wildest dreams.
Too often we struggle with problems and pressures and, like that disgusted owner, we give up. But we may miss out the “gold” that comes with sticking it out.
I am not saying that there are no circumstances under which we quit. I am saying that we think carefully before we do. Don’t sacrifice what may be a good place right now in favor of the temporary relief of surrender.
If today you want to raise the white flag, don’t. Hang in there.
Persevere. Keep the faith. You’ll be glad you did.