Learning From The Past

In response to The Daily Post writing prompt on February 9, 2013.

Prompt: So, you turned out pretty good, but is there anything you wish had been different about your childhood? If you have kids, is there anything you wish were different for them?

My childhood was pretty good. Though my parents were divorced, both were around. I didn’t want for much beyond the normal kid stuff. I played sports, had a paper route, and got to go on vacation. All in all, I enjoyed my childhood.

And yet, I’ve spent a lot of time in my life living in the past and not being in the present. It’s little things, daily interactions, bad decisions that weren’t catastrophic to my life but have left me with the sense that I screwed up that I tend to dwell upon. The irony is that for all the time that I’ve spent in the past reliving these moments, the present is the only opportunity I have to act. It’s the only time I can actively determine who I am.

It’s taken me a long time, but I’m starting to learn how to view the past in a way that allows me to learn from it without dwelling on the things that I wish were different. When I find something in my past that I wish were different, I try to uncover what led to the result that I wish could be changed. If there is something that I could have done differently, then I try to keep that in mind as I interact today and make that change in behavior a habit. If it’s something that I couldn’t have changed ā€“ like my parents divorce ā€“ I try to think about how I can react in a way that facilitates growth instead of getting stuck in that place.

I don’t think that there are many people that can’t find something that, if given the chance, they would change about their past. And though there are many people that have had things happen in their past that are terrible, the impact of the event doesn’t change the fact that we cannot alter the past. What we can do is learn from these events ā€“ large or small – and change how we act today.

Do you have any good strategies or techniques for moving from the past into the present?

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