Now, normally I’d be the first person to tell you that you shouldn’t focus on the past.
However, there is a good reason why you should do this – but you mustn’t do it through the eyes of regret. You should be setting aside regret and instead looking for the gems, the lessons that your past wants to reveal to you.
But let’s focus for a moment on the emotions that regret actually produces. Stick with me – we’ll get to the good stuff in a second! Is regret uplifting? No, clearly it is not. It brings up all sorts of negative emotions and often lures you into digging a hole and becoming stuck. Regret makes us focus on pain, guilt, shame and remorse, and this is usually why it’s best not to reflect on painful events of the past.
Having said that, there are times when looking back – with a positive curiosity, not regret – is important and can be of huge benefit in propelling you forward in life.
Here are three gifts that you can take from your past:
Celebration – When was the last time you celebrated yourself? When you read that you probably thought, ‘Huh? What? Celebrate myself?’ You know, looking back over your past and celebrating yourself is vital to your wellbeing and mental health. So, take a moment right now. Look back at any point in your past and look at where you are now – and celebrate! For example, as a new fresh entrepreneur (well, I actually like to think of myself as a glampreneur) of 12 months’ standing, I look back on my first year and celebrate. I’m not where I was 12 months ago – and, to be honest, I’m celebrating the fact that I’m even willing to call myself an entrepreneur! This identity is not something I’ve taken on lightly. It is, though, something that I’ve chosen to embrace.
When you take the time to celebrate the journey you’ve taken, and who you’ve become, your entire mindset shifts. You’re able to connect to your core and embrace yourself more fully. You have the energy to leap forward into your future. Also, while I encourage you to look back and celebrate what you’ve achieved, it’s so important to celebrate your ‘small wins’ on a day-to-day basis.
Growth – I love the concept of growth, and I am so amazed and excited when I see the growth people experience along their life journeys. In my work as a transformational coach, it’s so important that I am able to identify the things that contribute to a person’s growth (and these things are different for everyone) – it’s actually at the core of what I do. When you look back at a person’s life, you can see key experiences that made all the difference. Showing people this perspective allows them to view previous challenges with fresh eyes, and with gratitude.
In my own life, I had to reinvent myself when my employer went into liquidation and the industry itself was experiencing huge changes. My retirement plan had seemingly gone to pot and I was scared about my future. The grief I felt lasted for months – and it took about nine months before I realised that I had grown because of what I had gone through. Looking back, I’m also amazed at the growth I’ve experienced since that time, including the new skills and knowledge I’ve developed. Growth is always deeper than what you see on the surface – never underestimate the hidden growth that’s happening. Even when changes seem to be about your professional life, they have a deeper personal meaning. Never forget where you have come from. Reach back and reflect on your growth so that you are able to reach out to others and help them along their journey. In fact, this is one of the most exciting things that I love to do!
Drive – What do I mean by this? Well, it’s about the energy to move forward in life. To keep building your life, or building your business. When we look back on our past with a view to learning from it, we are propelled forward – we never want to go back to bad times. We feel driven to leap forward. We strive for growth and expansion, and the feeling that we are living life to its fullest. Our future can be very different to our past, and it’s natural to seek that change. When I lost my job, I had to reinvent myself and make a whole lot of change. Yes, it was painful – there were tears, there was yelling, there was grief and there was a feeling of wanting to give up! – but when I looked back at that period, I knew I didn’t ever again want to be locked into a 9–5 job. I wanted to embrace flexibility, to work from home, and to have the ability to create an amazing future. This clarity and desire drove me to make changes.
So there you have it. Three very good reasons for looking back over your life. Just remember to do it with a positive view, not with regret. Stop, reflect, smell the roses and embrace all that the future holds for you – and increase the joy by helping someone else to do the same on their journey…