“I should have known better.”
“Why did I do that? I’ve already made that mistake.”
“I have no idea where I am headed.”
“I am so lost.”
“I am a failure.”
Sound familiar? These are vicious tapes that we have learned to allow to play on repeat in our heads. We hear them so often that we start to believe them. These tapes even start conjuring their own emotions, such as anxiety, feelings of failure and defeat, and depression. The tapes begin to play so loud that we lose sight of our inner guide and let our inner critic take over.
We need to learn to break the repeating cycle. Once we do we can move forward in a straight line, instead of circling an endless loop. Easier said than done, right? I hear you. It is something I struggle with daily. It is hard to do. It is even harder to master. But it is possible.
The bottom line: acknowledge your past but learn to embrace your future.
The past happened. We did great things, we did bad things. We made right decisions, we made wrong decisions. How can we acknowledge our past without obsessing on it? First, instead of repeating demeaning phrases like “That was so stupid”, try saying “That was a mistake I made, but this is what I learned from it. I can apply the lesson the next time around.” Change the tape from beating yourself up, to what you learned from the experience and why you will be all the wiser the next time.
Second, it is important to learn how to set limits so that you don’t set yourself up for future failure. Today’s fast paced society demands multi-tasking and juggling priorities. When we start dropping balls because we are juggling too much, we deem ourselves failures instead of realizing that we were attempting too much. Know your limits. There are two options here. As my mom says, “You can only do what you can do,” meaning the first option is to accomplish what is able to be accomplished and be truly okay with what lies undone until later.
If this doesn’t work for you, then go with the second option, which is removing some of the balls you are juggling. Say no (politely, of course). Keep your commitments, but when new things come up, decipher what is truly a priority for you, and say no to the rest. We are so keen to say yes, yes, yes because we don’t want to disappoint anyone. Who is the one that ends up bearing the brunt? You. So learn to say “No, sorry, I can’t.”
Changing the tape is a hard process, but it is vital to our mental well-being and happiness that we do. It may take some time, but once you pinpoint what you are obsessing over in your past, you can acknowledge it, change the tape, and move on to your future.
The future is limitless. It is a clean slate. We can write whatever you want on it. We can change direction. The biggest mistake we can make is to let our past color our future. We are the dividing line between the two; choose to face forward. Put the past at your back, and embrace what opportunity the future will bring.