Letting Go of Yesterday…John Page Burton


“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that is why we call it the present”. I have appreciated this quote for many years but like many of us I have invested far too much time and energy dwelling on the past. All of us hold onto and relive past events, keeping us from truly experiencing the present moment. Many of us seem to believe that if we re-hash the past and beat ourselves up just one more time, the universe will finally open up and say, “my bad, you were right and I was wrong”. Reality check… yesterday is gone, we can’t bring it back. Let’s take a closer look at what it means to live in a yesterday mindset and why it rarely serves our greater good.

Y-Yearning.When we yearn for the past we cannot be present. For example, I have a friend who consistently resides in yesterday. She compulsively compares her current reality to something she has done in the past. “The food was better there, the people were friendlier, the traffic was slower, the weather was nicer” blah, blah, blah. Besides the fact that it is very annoying, I can’t help but notice how many great experiences and new memories she is missing out on because she chooses to compare everything to a past event.

E-Ego. The Ego thrives when we dwell in the past. Reliving our past by way of guilt, shame, should have’s, could have’s and would have’s is a steady source of fuel for the Ego. The Ego demands our separation from the present moment because it can only survive if it is allowed to feed off the pain we feel when we remain stuck in yesterday. Many of us continue to maintain limiting beliefs about ourselves that stem from something someone told us 25 years ago. The Ego doesn’t want us to EVER acknowledge that we have grown, changed or that we are now ready to take on a new, more empowering identity.

S-Stagnant. When we live in the past our lives can’t help but become stagnant. Everything is old, nothing is fresh and new. We wouldn’t wear the same underwear for a month at a time yet this is what many of us experience emotionally. I have a client who has lived in the same small town his entire life. By his own admission he feels “stuck”. He justifies his stagnation by explaining that he has a local business, a network of friends and so many “fond memories from his youth that it is hard to see himself living anywhere else”. I can’t speak for you, however, in my humble opinion, the world has way too much to offer to reside in the same 10 mile radius for 58 years. My client is content within his comfort zone. In order to expand our horizons we must be willing to get uncomfortable and step out of our PAST!

T-Trap. The past is a trap. Everything that happened prior to this precise moment is gone, done, over. When we spend our mental and emotional time living in the past we are robbing ourselves of the challenges and enjoyment that can ONLY be found in the present moment. The past is a trap that is brought to us exclusively from our friend…the EGO.

E-Energy. Expending energy dwelling on the past is a waste of our emotional resources. We can’t change the past and yet millions of us waste valuable energy reliving it in our minds. Sadly, everyone around us pays the price of our obsession. We “throw up” on our friends and family as we recount how we were wronged by parents, spouses, friends, teachers and employers. We become so caught up in our mental sewage that we fail to check into the NOW and are stunned when we learn that our child has a drug problem. We need to CHECK IN, not remain checked out. We must focus our energy on the present moment, this is our reality.

R-Redundant. When we dwell in the past we are reliving the same old story. The outcome always remains the same because the event has concluded. It’s like standing on a ski slope in the middle of July and wondering where the snow went? News flash…it melted!

D-Drama. Dwelling in the past usually represents drama. We rarely dwell on events that we deem “good”. We take “good” events for granted because it is far more appealing to the EGO when we spend our mental and emotional energy digging in the muck of past hurts and failed expectations. Yesterday’s drama fuels our insatiable need to be right and we are willing to fight tooth and nail to build support for our drama, effectively killing our chances of living in and embracing the present moment.

A-Awareness. We cannot be accountable to the present moment if we are living in the past. “If I had known better I would have done better” is how my dad once rationalized my dissatisfaction with his parenting skills. This philosophy serves as a reminder that the true function of the past is to serve as a guide, making us more aware and accountable for our present circumstances, choices and challenges.

Y-Yardstick. Yesterday does serve one very important purpose. Yesterday allows each of us to measure how far we have come and to experience who we have become in the process. When we review our past from an objective perspective, we are able to experience the magnitude of our accomplishments as well as the lessons we needed to learn along the way. We have all said “I wish I could do that over, I would do it so differently”. Why do we say this? Because we have a new reference point that has been gained by experiencing what has worked well and what hasn’t. We obviously don’t get a “do over” but we can use our past experiences to make different decisions in the future. This is what is meant by the process of trial and error.

As always, my hope is that you find these thoughts helpful as you navigate through life and business. I welcome your insights and feedback.

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2 thoughts on “Letting Go of Yesterday…John Page Burton

  1. Feel like I ought to be paying for this inspiration…..The Ego to me always seems to be the culprit..Have found in my own world the quicker I can make it to the ‘acceptance’ part the better I feel…..Its the time between the ‘grief ‘ and ‘acceptance’ that has me confused….sometimes its seconds other times its days/weeks…….Thank You John!!!

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    • Our friend the Ego is quite complex. The key is to have the awareness and then give your self permission to get to acceptance at the pace you are comfortable with. Far too many people shut down, block out their feelings and then try and convince themselves that they are “good to go”. You will know when you have accepted something because you will be at peace. Thanks for your insights and for appreciating my work! Cheers.

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