Yesterday I wrote about how personal happiness can be an ongoing negotiation, requiring you to problem-solve and troubleshoot various situations that will come up in order to stay current with your own happiness. I also believe that it is possible to examine one’s past to find clues for greater happiness, as long as you don’t stuck in the rabbit hole of dwelling on the past.
These days, I often reflect on past experiences, doing what I can to gain clarity and have a happier present. I am training myself to see difficult past situations not as mistakes but as stepping stones to greater wisdom. As I recall past struggles or ordeals I went through, I always do my best to make sure my thinking is productive. I remind myself to stay present. Specifically, I always do my best to look for the value of those memories can offer me right now.
If you don’t remind yourself to get in the moment, I find that it’s all to easy to get caught in the rabbit hole of dwelling on the past. I have been asking myself things like, “So how does this serve me now? What can I use from this insight now?” When I look at challenging past situations, I do it with a commitment to make this present moment happier. I make sure that the inquiry into the past feels satisfying, that it is serving some purpose, not merely an indulgence.
I do believe that sometimes past experiences sort of get “stuck” in our minds. It’s not that the past keeps repeating itself. It’s that we keep attracting the same experience because we are focused on the past! I have heard this called living into the past. We may not realize it, but when we are predominately thinking about past experiences, and when we are expecting those experiences to repeat, we are essentially just re-creating our past! Sounds kinda sucky to me, what do you think?
That is something I no longer have any interest in doing (as if it ever were anything but a pain in the butt!). So I make sure to keep my inquiry positive. I make sure it passes the satisfaction test. Then, assuming that I am getting joy from the process, I press on, because I believe that it is helping me have a clearer mind for the only moment that matters: the one happening right now.
Because here and now is where all the power and opportunity lies! The past is just a memory, a bunch of data stored in your head. It no longer actually exists. What does exist are the thoughts we think about the past. If we are not careful, it can be all too easy to get caught thinking disempowering stories about the past. If we do that, we end up limiting our own clarity, confidence, presence of mind, or overall happiness in the present moment.
Because we cannot go back and change the past. However, we can spend our present moments dwelling on memories. Oh how easy this can be. I have spent mucho time doing this. It fixes nothing. It changes nothing. Unless you bring it back to the present moment.
How is this helping me now? What does this have to do with how I am living my life right now, and how can I use it to make my life better?
Ask those kinds of questions, and I think it is possible to make those pesky memories from the past serve a purpose for us. Otherwise, I think there are more productive uses of our time.