Happiness Requires Deliberate Action

“Don’t look back because that’s not the direction you’re going”.  Of all of the tips for happiness, this is the worst.  How many times have you indulged the memes and the gurus encouraging you to cut ties to your past? It’s comforting to believe that there’s no value in experiences that are embarrassing, painful, or scary to recall. From my uncomfortable past, I know the only reason I’ve broken over a decade of narcissist abuse, got the confidence to get outta strip clubs, and the courage to become a mother, author, and entrepreneur is by facing my past.  In this post, we’ll look at why the worst advice for happiness is abandoning your past, the benefits of using your past to your benefit, and tips for the mental shift that will inspire the courage to mindfully dig through your past.

The Worst Advice For Happiness

We’re consigning on the idea of sticking our hands in hot frying pans, and not looking both ways before crossing the street. Welcome to crazy town!  We’re ditching decades of files in our heads, (all of those hard-earned wins and lessons), and go about our lives.  There’s a reason why a chapter from my book is titled “Bite Your Past in the Ass Before it Bites You!

  Why should we get busy digging into our past if we want fulfillment, happiness, and success in our future?  Well, you wouldn’t step over the artifacts of an ancient archaeological site without digging for valuable historical treasures, would you?  You’d be crazy!  When unearthing clues from our past, there are three types of valuable artifacts we find; false truths, self-limiting beliefs, and new perceptions.

Ignoring your past is one of the worst pieces of advice for happiness. You'll remain hostage to the same patterns and weaknesses.

Ignoring your past is one of the worst pieces of advice for happiness. You’ll remain hostage to the same patterns and weaknesses.

These three artifacts help us gain clarity on things like why we attract partners that won’t commit, friendships that are one-way streets, or why we spend an obscene amount of money on shit we don’t need.  False truths aren’t facts, but we experience them so often, that we treat them as hard facts.

A common false truth is that money is the root of all evil.  Nevermind the idea of philanthropy and creating opportunities for others. Self-limiting beliefs are similar to false truths, but they’re generalizations we believe about ourselves.  Being abandoned by a parent or significant other may lead to the SLB that we’re not worthy of love.  Perhaps school wasn’t a strength, and those failures cause you to shy away from challenges.  Lastly, looking at the past from a new perception enables us to reframe our feelings and take-aways from certain situations.

I had a humiliating incident in elementary school with a nun who became triggered because I got most of the math questions wrong.  After slamming my book on my desk, and yelling to the helpers “don’t bother helping her” I felt my spirit sinking into my desk with everyone watching. Three decades later, I realize I was the strong one in that situation, and she was out of control and in need of help. 

Reframing has helped me take my power back in many instances and will do the same for you. The commonality between our false truths, self-limiting beliefs, and limited perceptions is that they keep us chained to self-limiting behaviors. We end up either boxing ourselves into limitations, or completely sabotaging ourselves with destructive actions (including inaction).

So, what happens when we ignore our past? I’m sure you know the feeling of hitting your stride and suddenly, out of nowhere, BAM! You stumble over a self-limiting behavior that sends you into a brick wall.  Our past behaves like a horror movie villain.  We think we’ve finally beaten a self-limiting behavior.  Months later it comes back from the dead and we have to battle it once again.

Are you allowing your past to remain trapped by fears and insecurities?

Are you allowing your past to remain trapped by fears and insecurities?

Following the advice of moving forward blindly, is the equivalent of putting a small bandage over a wound that requires surgical stitching and mindful healing. Is it any wonder why our wounds keep hurting us and others? Examining our past takes nerve, but it empowers us with the self-awareness to identify and break our most debilitating patterns of self-sabotage., and replace them with new growth-oriented patterns aligning with our best life.  Now that you see why running from the past is the worst advice for happiness, let’s look at why it’s such an attractive option and how you can make mentally switch fear of your past off.

 Overcoming Fear of Our Past For a Happier Present and Future

Why are we dodging our past?  Well, let’s be honest. It’s easier to deal with the stumbles and trips because once they’re out of sight, they’re out of mind until the next time, (that’s the catch).  It allows us to become our own enabler of bad, disappointing, or downright toxic behavior.  The gurus comfort us into believing we can indulge in lazy behavior and still manifest our most ambitious dreams. 

The main reason I believe we’re happy to part with our past is because of this deep fear that our past somehow defines us. So here’s my mental shift tip to help you step away from the fear of reflecting on your past. To help you regain a degree of power from situations that you once felt helpless or victimized by.

Reflective journaling can help you take your power back from your past. help your past.

Reflective journaling can help you take your power back from your past. help your past.

Our past doesn’t define who we are.  As humans, we’re meant to evolve, and that’s the beauty of this life. We’re not fixed objects, but rather, we’re closer to water.  We have the freedom of fluidity. Our self-awareness evolves, our opinions, interactions, our entire human experience evolves, (even beyond death). Do the artifacts that are discovered define humankind? No, they simply offer fascinating glimpses of how certain people existed, survived, and what the world was like at that time, but we have evolved in every way possible. 

We gain the benefit of learning from their mistakes.  Use the artifacts from your past to your future self’s benefit. If you have suffered severe traumas, I advise and encourage you to seek out a professional who can safely guide you along your journey.

The biggest benefit of facing your past is the degree of self-awareness you gain. In my book, I introduce my Self-Awareness Bucket Concept. We want fulfillment in all aspects or buckets of our lives. Career, personal finances, parenting, and relationships are just a few of those buckets. Rather than trying to fill each bucket individually (leaving us with most buckets half-filled or empty while a couple are full), we laser focus on one major bucket. That larger bucket that neatly spills over into our other buckets (often simultaneously) is self-awareness. 

Our memories are precious at every age. Even the unpleasant ones have value.

Our memories are precious at every age. Even the unpleasant ones have value.

If you uncover the pattern that when you’re anxious you overeat and tend to overspend, you now have the power to add fulfillment to two major buckets (personal finance and diet/health). When our self-awareness fills to a certain level, we experience happiness and fulfillment in all aspects/buckets of life simultaneously rather than settling.

Most Valuable Tip For Reflecting on Your Past

I’m a big believer in reflective journaling. For that reason, I leave 1-3 thought-provoking questions at the end of every podcast episode. They make great reflective journal prompts.  Grab a notebook and dip your toes into reflective journaling.  Start by journaling about the recent past. Six months, two months or two weeks ago make for great starting points. 

 

As you build comfort, you can go further back.  You can organize it by school grade, age range, where you were living at the time, etc.  Write down any interaction that resonates, and how it made you feel.  Note if it triggered something in you, and try following that feeling to other past incidences that sparked similar feelings.  Ask yourself how you reacted then and how you’re reacting now.  Did it cause you to pull back, or attack defensively?  These are what lead to “Aha” moments and life-changing breakthroughs.

There’s no reason to continue following the worst advice for happiness now that you see how it holds you back.  Here’s a quick post on how to handle regrets so you can move forward with confidence.
Be sure to listen to the accompanying podcast episode for more insights and your journal prompts.  In this episode, I also include a powerful affirmation to help you build the strength and courage to fearlessly pick through your past for those gems of information that are waiting for you to use them to your advantage.  Let me know if this post has given you an encouraging perspective on taking your past head-on. What do you believe is the worst advice for happiness.
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