Learn From Your Past, but Don’t Live In It

by on December 6, 2010

Learn From Your Past, but Don’t Live In Itmidlife changes moving on in midlife

Midlife is often a time of reflection.  New people come into our life, while those we have known may move elsewhere or pass on.  We may find ourselves in a new city or even part of the country from where we grew up.  Some see the past with optimism, reflecting on times and activities they miss from their youth.  Others see it with frustration, as a time of opportunities lost, with regret over choices made.

There is nothing wrong in reflecting on the past.  Some of our greatest lessons and inspirations may come from the people and experiences that have been a part of our life.  However, “living in the past” is another matter.  There is nothing to be gained, and often nothing more than precious energy lost in obsessing on things we can’t change, can’t recreate or have back exactly the way they were.

I was reminded of this all recently at the wake of a distant cousin.  In speaking with her son who I had not seen in many years, I was catching up with him on his life.  While he missed the old days in the neighborhood in which he had grew up, he was also encouraging in how he had moved his life forward by taking a post retirement position at a local college.  Building on his years of service as a United States Postal worker, he was now running the mailroom on campus.  He was telling me of the energy he drew from working with the students who volunteered in the mailroom and from those students who came to the mailroom to pick up letters from home.  After having left his first position, he knew that he couldn’t sit still, and so the position at the college helped fill that time.  Additionally, he and his wife were planning to divide their time between their current home in South Carolina and purchasing one in upstate New York, so they could spend time during the summer with their grandchildren who lived in Rochester, New York.

We all have so much emotional energy to devote to our everyday activities.  That which is focused on correcting or obsessing over the past, is completely depriving us of giving our best to the present.  In working with the clients that I do, the focus is always on goals, the future, and on what you want to bring into your life.   Yes, we may touch on the past and how it influences that which is happening in life at present.  Many times, the past can incorporate within you a belief system which is holding you back from moving forward.  However, once one commits to where they want to head, they allow themselves to put all their energy toward achieving that which they want in their life.  As the Serenity Prayer tells us “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference”.

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