Everyone makes mistakes and goes through difficult times in life. But it’s not your mistakes or your difficulties that define you, but rather what you learn from them that truly matters. How you think about the past can be an excellent teacher and a great source of motivation for learning how to move on, or it can interfere with your happiness and hold you back from living your best life.
So, how do you put the past behind you?
Here are four tips I’d like to share with you today to help you heal your old wounds and move on to a better and brighter future.
1. Practice Forgiveness
Whether it’s forgiving yourself for a mistake that you made or forgiving someone who you believe harmed you, forgiveness is one of the best possible things you can do to heal yourself from the past.
You may have heard the saying, “Holding onto anger and resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” It’s true. When you continue to be angry and bitter about something that has happened in the past, the only person you end up hurting is yourself.
So whatever old grudges or disappointments you’ve been nursing, I encourage you to let them go. You will feel a lot better about yourself and about the world around you if you do.
2. Practice Gratitude
Take time every day to feel grateful for everything that is good in your life. And I do mean EVERYTHING.
Be grateful for the people who love you, and who have helped you, mentored you or taught you something on your journey through life. Be grateful for the roof over your head, be grateful for your health, be grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given in life, the flowers blooming outside your window and the blue sky overhead, the things that make your life easier and more enjoyable, and the people who were involved in making those things and bringing them into your world.
The more you cultivate gratitude and appreciation for everything that’s good in your life right now and focus on those things, the easier it will be for you to forget about the things that have hurt you in the past.
And also remember to be grateful for the people that have made your life difficult at times.
It is because of them that you have developed qualities like courage, perseverance, and compassion. Make sure to develop a daily practice of gratitude, whether it is in meditation, writing in your journal, or just walking around and appreciating everything you see for a few minutes in the morning.
3. Remember Your Thoughts Determine Your Reality
So if you want to improve any aspect of your life your life, make the effort to think better thoughts.
Every time you find yourself thinking about something negative that happened in the past, consciously transform that negative thought into something positive.
For example, if you’re thinking, “I can’t believe I wasted all those years on someone who betrayed me!” replace it with the new thought, “I am so happy and grateful I am now free to find someone who truly appreciates me for who I am.”
Learning how to meditate is also a powerful tool that can help you with this. When you meditate, you can simply assume the position of a witness to your thoughts, which always seem to come in a constant stream.
As you become more aware of your thoughts in meditation, you will more easily and more often begin to recognize when you’re going into a negative spiral and be able to then consciously shift your thoughts toward something more positive.
It takes constant vigilance and work, but the ultimate rewards are so worth it.
4. Remember That You Are Amazing
Focusing on the failures of your past can be crippling to your self-esteem, your self-confidence, and your happiness. But the opposite is true as well. When you focus on your past successes, of which there are always many, you build your self-esteem and your self-confidence.
List Your Past Successes
One great way to acknowledge your past successes is to sit down and make a list of your past successes. Here are a couple of ways to do that.
The first one is a simple exercise I call Nine Successes. To do this exercise, simply divide your life into three major time periods.
For example, if you are forty-five years old, the first time period could be birth to 20 years old, the second would be twenty years old to 33 years old, and the third would be from 33 to 45.
Make the first time period from the present until you are 18 or 20 years old, and then divide the rest of your life in half.
Then list three major successes that you accomplished in each time period for a total of nine successes. Don’t discount things like learning to drive, graduating high school, getting your first job, or buying your first car.
They were all big deals at the time.
Once you complete your list, look back over it and remember that if you were able to accomplish those things in your past, then you can accomplish whatever else you want to accomplish now and in the future. Acknowledge the fact that there are plenty of accomplishments in your past to feel good about, and allow that sense of accomplishment to elevate your self-esteem.
List 100 Successes
Another exercise is to make a list of 100 successes you’ve had in your life. Give yourself several days to accomplish this.
Make sure to include all the things that you may now take for granted, like learning to speak a second language, passing that difficult English literature course in college, achieving sharpshooter status in the military, raising a healthy child or learning to grill the perfect steak.
Or things like learning to play an instrument, learning how to type, saving enough money to take that trip to New York or Europe, beating your dad at chess, learning to swim, making Eagle Scout, painting a picture, learning to take great pictures with your camera, getting a promotion, developing a website, figuring out how to use social media like Pinterest and Facebook, helping a political candidate get elected, talking a friend out of committing suicide, getting sober if you were battling some addiction, learning how to bake a cake, coaching your kid’s little league or soccer league team, and so on.
5. Try Tapping Therapy
Finally, one last tool I would like to call your attention to is EFT tapping or tapping therapy.
As many of you know, EFT stands for “emotional freedom technique” and it’s a powerful way to release old thoughts and beliefs, and the feelings those thoughts and beliefs create, that are no longer serving you.
EFT tapping is similar to acupressure in that it focuses on systematically applying light pressure to key energy points on your head and chest to help you release negative thoughts and emotions and energy. It is a very effective tool that I have used with phenomenal results in my own life and the lives of my students.
Given that EFT exists as a tool, there is no reason to stay stuck in the past.
Do have any old wounds from past hurts that you haven’t been able to put behind you? Going forward, what are some of the strategies you will use to heal those wounds?