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Rewriting the Past is a Trap

Looking back at prior decisions helps us to learn what worked, what didn’t work and many things that were simply beyond our control. The benefit of this learning applies to the decisions you must make today, or that you might need to make tomorrow. Sometimes, you get stuck in the past as you change the internal conversations from learning to wishing.

Looking back at each decision or path in the road and wishing you had taken the other route serves only one purpose; that is to keep you stuck in an impossible quandary that you can never solve. The simple truth is that whatever happened in the past lives in the past and whatever did not happen in the past lives there also. You cannot change the past and no amount of wishful thinking will help. It won’t even make you feel better about yourself. In fact, it will make you feel worse as you begin to punish yourself for making so many bad choices or not taking good opportunities.

The only things you can change are the choices you make to affect what happens next. Focusing on what you can do now to improve the future keeps you motivated and it keeps your brain working with lots of constructive, creative energy. Occasionally, we fail to learn from the past and seem destined to repeat the same mistakes. If the past reveals a series of repeated mistakes and you now face the same choice, it may be time to step back and analyze what went wrong and what might be a better choice. We often make choices based on what we think we are capable of doing about a situation or what we have learned by observing others.

If you never learned how to cope or manage a particular situation, you may have developed a habit of simply shying away from it. This could even be as severe an action as moving away from where you live to another state to escape the problem. Unfortunately, since the problem is largely the result of your own inability to manage it you are destined to repeat this behavior. This is a particularly disruptive and unproductive process.

If you recognize these patterns in you or someone close to you, then it could be time for an intervention. The first intervention comes from you by stopping yourself from rushing into decisions that are driven by an emotional reaction to a situation. Step back and look at the problem objectively. If you have trouble doing this, get help to do so from a trusted third party. Don’t simply go to all of your old enabling friends who keep telling you to run. They are simply reflecting their own inability to deal with the situation with any rational and logical expertise.

First, recognize that bad things happen to everyone, so what seems to be a pattern is not the result of a flaw in you or an invisible target on your back. The difference you perceive about repetition and the effect of the problem on you versus others is in learning to cope, manage, avoid and eliminate the problem from reoccurring. You must be willing to brutally honest with yourself to move forward in a different way. This is not about being overly self-critical; that too serves no purpose. Rather, it is about recognizing and accepting the truth about the decisions you have made and your motivation for making a poor choice now.

Sometimes the right choice seems obvious but it suggests a road that is not familiar to you. Your fear of the unknown can be a big motivating force to help you to avoid taking that path, despite your rational mind telling you the opposite. Don’t shy away from the right choice without first exploring it further. Identify the unknown factors that are making you uncomfortable and write them down. Ask clarifying questions about each element and reduce them to a series of steps that will cause the unknown to become known and actionable.

Perhaps you are afraid of entering a new field because you lack specific knowledge of it. Find out where you can acquire enough knowledge or partner with someone else who is an expert in the topic. You may be convinced that you are not capable of doing certain types of work or managing specific types of events or people. Identify the specific issues that seem to create fear and with the help of a coach and a little practice, you can easily overcome each one. In the end, determination will overcome almost any challenge if you make the decision to pursue your passion and focus on what to do to make it happen. The learning that comes from failures makes your next decision far more qualified.

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