Don’t Live In Your Past

Whatever your past was, it’s gone now. Nothing you do today will change anything that’s happened already so you must focus your attention on what’s happening right now.

What makes this harder than it sounds, though, is how memories have a habit of luring your thinking back on times when you had it easy, or had it rough. You’re tempted to imagine yourself back then doing just one thing differently, and “if only…” you knew to do that, it would fix everything right now — instantly.

If you want to move forward in your life, though, you must spend less time wishfully reminiscing and more time actually living. Learn how to leave your past behind you and turn your attention to what is happening for you right now, because the only place to live is in the present.

You may be living in your past because you’re using it as an excuse for the bad aspects of your present life. I’ve known people who claimed that their neglected upbringing was responsible for all that was weak, defiant, or negative in them. I’ve known people who held one bad incident in their life responsible for everything bad that has occurred ever since — as if this sob story was their personal trump card with which they could turn the blame whenever they couldn’t admit responsibility for their own failures in life.

When you proclaim that your problems are a direct result from incidents rooted in your past, your argument gets weaker every day. It’s true that everyone needs recovery time to heal from painful or traumatic life experiences, but they aren’t to be used as a lifetime pass for making excuses.

If you’re living in your past because you’re fixated on things you regret, you need to accept that you’ll never be able to go back and undo what you’ve done. Learn to let go of your regrets, and understand that everyone makes bad decisions sometimes.

When you do something you regret, you’ll just have to face the consequences of your decision and learn from them. Instead of obsessively wishing you could change the past, you should resolve not to make such bad decisions again. That’s all anyone expects from you — that you can admit you made a mistake and will try your best not to repeat the pattern.

If you’re trying to relive past days that were better for you, know that there is no harm in remembering and appreciating your “glory days.” It is important, however, not to let these memories consume you — don’t forfeit your opportunity to discover the good times happening right now.

Remember that every day is a fresh opportunity, and we can make of it what we wish. Subscribing to that mentality can be difficult though — a bit like trying to write every day. Getting started is the hard part, requiring constant dedication, enthusiasm, and concentration to persevere. Once you’ve built up some momentum though, you find you’re living your fullest every day without conscious effort.

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12 Responses to “Don’t Live In Your Past”

#1 Xplorator » Reality check: You can't change your life on 18, Sep, 2007 at 12:04 am

[...] This moment is a starting point to change your life. As you finish reading this what are you going to do or think about? If you want to change your life thinking of the past won’t help. Note: Shaun Boyd also tell you not to live in your past. [...]

#2 Eileen on 05, Oct, 2007 at 10:21 am

I can relate to this article. I keep dwelling on my past, when I was the star student with the super-high GPA and the great AP scores. By the time I got to college, it wasn’t realistic to expect to be the star student anymore. All my classmates were star students, too, and way more into science and intellectual stuff that I was. (I went to a science and engineering school.) I also keep dwelling on my parents’ disdain for dentists and orthodontics. I blame them for my not being a supermodel or being pursued by lots of hot rich guys. (Usually 0 guys of any level of wealth or hotness pursue me.)

#3 susan R. on 24, May, 2009 at 3:05 am

Hi. I have a friend who lives in the past. We’ve been friends since high school. We broke off our fiendship because it just wasn’t going anywhere. We had been friends off and on for 30+yrs. We found each other on the internet again in 2007. She wishes she had the old Susan back, strong, independent, go anywhere at a moments notice, but I’ve moved past that-married with kids now. Shes still single, no kids and still klings to old high school friends. I’m not sure what to do. HELP!

#4 a student girl on 28, May, 2009 at 3:40 am

Thank you a lot this writing really helped me with my homework (bow)

#5 jen on 07, Jun, 2009 at 6:45 pm

thanks for the article…i really thought it was great….i have the same problem of remembering my past because its always there no matter what. But i have to let go and move on! Yes it takes a lot of courage to move on and start fresh.(jen)

#6 M on 12, Mar, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I know what it is to truly be consumed with regret for something done in the past… I was in a serious car accident some time ago and won a fairly large settlement from it. To make a long story short: because I was young and stupid and irresponsible, I ultimately ended up spending nearly every cent within three years, and have hardly anything to show for it at present. The 2 years of university I completed with the money are not a full degree (I dropped out when I ran out of money) and the trip I went on is certainly not paying my bills now; nor are all the clothes and junk I bought any kind of a comfort to me now… Something happened to me this last year whereby I have become obsessed with the want to go back in time and not have blown that money. I wish for so many things- to have finished school with the money, to have put a down payment on a home, to have purchased a car…basically anything but what I did with it. I wake up at night crying over it (if I can sleep at all) and I have recurring nightmares about getting into car accidents and winning money from them… It is truly a sickness, and one I am trying so hard to deal with every day.

#7 a foreign student in Singapore on 12, Apr, 2010 at 5:09 am

Thanks a lot!
In my opinion, people who experience something very sad before and that have great influence on their lives today tend to more likely live in the past. For those who are enjoying the happpiness of life, they are not live in the past mastly.
Do you agree with it?

#8 Tyler on 03, Jun, 2010 at 11:27 pm

When I was younger I went through somthing in my life. When I was ten my step brother reaped me I always blammed myself and though I was gay as a result I got involved in a relationship with my neighbor well one day his dad caught us i was to young to know what I was doing and have been caring regret ever since this website has helped me moved on and of course god has always been with. I realized I was to young and stupid othonistly know what I was doing so there was no sence in regretting it and I need to move on

#9 Andrew on 01, Aug, 2010 at 8:18 pm

The past rocks!!

I’m gonna stay there as long as I can, it takes me away from the hell I reside in today. :)

#10 Patrick on 27, Oct, 2010 at 11:55 am

Yes, I revere the past much more than the average person. I admit that. My brothers, my wife, and my friends can’t even begin to understand how I feel. I’ve always been this way, even when I was very young and I am now almost 70. I’ve tried to hold onto every vestige of my past, such as the teddy bear I got when I was three, my school memorabilia and of course, old photographs. I hate what has happened to our society and culture in this country. I grew up in a better time when people were kinder, gentler, and more moral, music was more harmonious and schools were for learning. Sure, we’ve added computers and cell phones, but what have we lost? Add to this the not-so-gradual loss of mental and physical abilities that comes with aging and one has to wonder why anyone would not long for the past.

#11 David H. on 28, Nov, 2011 at 10:23 pm

I constantly find myself living in the past, more often than usual. The reason I do so is because: 1) of all the wrongs that have been inflicted upon me by certain people & 2) the past is a safe haven from the hell I’ve been experiencing the past several years. I constantly find myself replaying the same incidences over & over in my mind, & I cannot escape from my past no matter how hard I try. I keep thinking of the pain I endured in the last place I lived, when I couldn’t get along with certain members of my family, which was stressing me out a great deal. My negative past has caused me to commit myself to a mental hospital & seek counseling. Being in financial straits hasn’t helped matters either. No matter how hard I try to help things change, they only end up getting worse. I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, & that makes focusing on the present & future unbearable. I also think it has something to do with karma, & that I’m being punished for something I did. If anyone here has any advice or suggestions, I’m all ears!

#12 paul on 22, Jan, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Patrick and Andrew above me say excactly how i feel, i would give my right arm to be able to live in the past.

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