No, I am not talking about the Disney movie, although I do apologize if you suddenly have that song stuck in your head. I am talking about all the past hurts you have experienced, the wrongs done to you, the unrealistic expectations, the bad habits, the illogical thoughts, the unhealthy relationships.
It is human nature to want to right past wrongs, to seek justice, to brood, to cling to the past. Yet in many ways, ways that you may not even realize, your past is shadowing your future. It is sticking to your shoe like gum. It is holding you back from achieving your potential. Everyone has a past; it is part and parcel of who you are yet it does not have to define you, it does not have to consume you. It is not about getting over the past yet rather about getting past it.
Change is difficult, even positive change, so how can you focus this year on moving forward.
1. Recognize what you are holding on to and why. There may be reasons to hold on to the past, if those reasons are propelling you forward. For example, a critical comment that your boss made may drive you to work harder to achieve that promotion. That is productive. Continuing to question your capabilities and competence long after leaving that job for a better position is not productive. So first step back and think about what parts of your past you are your carrying with you into your present and why.
2. Acknowledge your emotions. Trying to ignore your feelings is futile and your feelings will just creep up on you and leak out into all areas of your life. Take some time to think about how you are feeling and “sit with” those feelings. In order to get past the past, you need to truly feel your feelings. No matter how difficult, your feelings are valid and they are yours.
3. Accept the past. Denial really is only a river in Egypt. It is not healthy in your life. Stop trying to deny what happened, to keep secrets, or to outrun your past. This is futile as well. You cannot move forward if you do not acknowledge what has led to your present.
4. Recognize your contributions. This is a hard one. Hold up that mirror and take a good long look into it. Although it is so much easier to play the victim, this does not allow you to take control over your thoughts and actions. Think about how you have contributed to events in your past and how you have contributed to remaining stuck in those events. By recognizing this, you are empowering yourself to write your own script, to retell your past from a different perspective, and to regain control of your own life path.
5. Make the decision to Let It Go. This needs to be a conscious choice and it is your choice, and your choice alone. You have the power to decide whether you want to remain stuck or whether you want to move forward. Once you choose to move past the past…
6. Stop talking about it. Talking about issues, challenges, and difficulties is important, as it gives voice to these things, validates them, and allows us to process. Yet, at some point, enough is enough. You can only talk so much about how horrible your ex-boyfriend treated you or how miserable your parents are. There comes a time when it is more beneficial to stop giving these things airtime, to stop giving them the power to define and control your life in order to move forward.
7. Clean it out, literally. How are we to move forward, if we are surrounded by the keepsakes, mementos, clutter, and debris of our past? Purge, purge, purge. Delete those photos of your ex from your Facebook account. Choose to stop spending time with those who are critical of you or who bring you down, just because you think you should.
8. Clean it out, figuratively. Participate in a ritual. Write down all your thoughts and feelings and bury them, tear them up, burn them. Picture them as leaves floating away on a river. Or picture them written in sand and a wave coming ashore to wash them away. You get the picture.
9. Find your peace. Find a way to center yourself, cope with stress, and focus on the present moment. Sing and dance with abandon to your favorite song. Take a bubble bath. Go for a long run or bike ride. Try yoga. Meditate. Talk to a counselor. The purpose is to purge your self of those emotional toxins.
10. Have something to look forward to. It is hard to move past the past if you have nothing to look forward to. Set a goal to work towards. Learn a new skill or hobby. Plan a vacation. Whatever it is, envision your future self and work towards that rather than remaining fixed in your past self.
“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.” ― C. JoyBell C.