Do you have any other impending business to attend to right now?
It’s silly to ask because we both know your answer is an obvious “no,” since you’re reading this.
But let’s say you’re supposed to pick up kids from school.
Or watch your favourite show on TV.
Switch off the oven.
Finish your writing.
Meet a friend for catching up.
Get ready for work.
There are millions of things you could’ve been doing right now.
Yet you chose to read this.
There’s a fancy word for it called opportunity cost—doing something at the expense of another.
Our thoughts work exactly the same.
Sacrificing Now While Dwelling On the Past
For some of us, dwelling on past mistakes is like a favourite pastime.
We do without thinking so much we’re doing it.
The moment we do, we’re pulling our attention away from some other aspects of our lives that are happening right now.
Our attention says:
Leave me alone; I’m busy right now playing with my dear friend, Past Mistakes. Go away, you Present and Future.
That sounds ridiculous.
Yet I did this for a long time.
It’s silly, I know. But I couldn’t get out of it until my health suffered.
While playing hard with my past mistakes, I didn’t eat properly, couldn’t sleep well, didn’t exercise at all, and totally alienated people.
My diminishing health was screaming at me:
Look at me. Look at me…
And I screamed some more until I was forced to visit the doctor, finally diverting my attention from the past to the present.
And it took me a year to get my health back to normal.
I had paid a dear price because I couldn’t move on from my past mistakes, the consequences, and the endless “what-ifs.”
Over to You
While you live in the past and replay past mistakes, you’re likely neglecting your career, friends, family, or health.
Don’t let them be the cause of more mistakes and regrets.
I’ve learned the simple truth the hard way:
It only gets worse
How to Get Out of This Hell of Past Mistakes
Okay, you stop that nonsense, this “living in the past” thing, right this minute!
You hop out of whatever state you were in and say:
Wow, that was awesome. Thank you for rescuing me.
And gets told…
Run along now. Have a good life, alright?
You go off and run into the paradise of living in the present.
Is that how it’s supposed to work out?
Ha. Don’t we wish it’ was that simple to get out of living in the past?
If it were so simple, I wouldn’t have wasted an entire year suffering from physical pain.
In reality, it’s much harder to come out of the dark place we’ve boxed ourselves in.
It requires a conscious effort to shift our attention to what really matters to us right now.
Spot the Badasses
But first things first.
We need to catch the badasses—the major mistakes and regrets haunting us.
Because they’re the root cause of all our miseries and regrets.
You’ll come up with one culprit. Or two.
When we tackle the major ones, a large part of our lives improves.
Remember when things go wrong, all seems to go wrong?
It works both ways.
When things start to improve, other parts of life start to improve too.
Accept That There’s No Turning Back the Clock
Mismanagement of money was the prime cause of my miseries and regrets.
The effect had spread to all areas of my life.
How about you: catch yours?
Now for the hard part.
Accept that, no matter how much we wish to turn the clock back and fix our mistakes, we can’t.
I’d played “what if” a hundred times.
How differently I would have done, given a second chance.
How badly I had wished for that second chance!
This particular huddle of wishful thinking was the hardest to get through.
In the end, it comes down to the only thing we can do:
Accept that what’s done is done, and nothing can change what’s done.
See the Mistakes for What They Are and Where They Are
Accepting that what’s done is done is so important.
We can then see mistakes for what they truly are and, more importantly, where they are.
They are mistakes.
The moment you recognise them as mistakes, you’re no longer the same person as you once were.
If you were the same person who made the mistakes, you’d continue to live free of guilt.
You’d be oblivious to the consequences of your mistakes to you or others.
And make the same mistakes over and over again without a care in the world.
But no, that’s not you.
You’ve already grown an inch taller and are wiser enough to admit that you’ve made mistakes. You’ve gained a new perspective and understanding.
You aren’t the same person anymore.
Where they are is in the past.
You recognised your past mistakes, for which you can proclaim:
Thank God, it’s in the past.
You were once ashamed to have done certain things.
But now you’re free from making the same mistakes ever again.
Unless you live strictly within the boundary of your comfort zone, never giving you a chance to try anything new, we’re all prone to making mistakes.
You did something you thought was right at the time.
Like many people, no matter how irrational or silly it might be, we all had a valid reason for doing regretful things at the time, but they’re now in the past.
Forgive Yourself Like You’d Forgive Your BFF
Nothing more. Nothing less.
Extend enough compassion towards yourself just as much as you would towards your BFF.
You wouldn’t remind your BFF what she had done at every opportunity or what she should have done differently.
Yet you’re doing it to yourself by dwelling on your past mistakes.
Resolve to be kinder to yourself just as much as you’d be to your BFF.
Tools that I’ve Used
Don’t we wish that letting go of the past mistakes was so simple?
The reality is this:
One day, we’d wake up feeling upbeat and hopeful.
Next day we’d face the onslaught of “what ifs” all over again.
We fight through days against emotional ups and downs.
If you’re like me, there will come a point where you feel sick and tired of them.
I was exhausted from the rollercoaster of damned emotions.
So while recovering from minor surgery, I made a resolution to remove them from my life completely.
And move on once and for all.
Below tools helped me do that.
Play Your Happy Song
Every time “what if” surfaced, I played my happy song: “You Are My Sunshine.”
I “killed” unwanted thoughts with my favourite song.
Replacing the unwanted thoughts with something I love was the most effective way of subduing them.
I sang this song loudly and in a fast tempo or hummed it, which instantly quashed the unwanted thoughts and lifted my mood.
Punch Them Out
Other times, I used my punching bag.
I focused on punching the bag like it was my eternal enemy.
I didn’t want to give any other thoughts a chance to seep in until I’d erased all unwanted thoughts.
I no longer live in the world of “what ifs.”.
And the feeling of relief is pure bliss: peaceful and light.
These two tools are still my best “weapons” every time I need to perk up dealing with mundane and hard tasks.
There’s also a mantra that’s been my life’s saviour.
Find your own weapons and kill unwanted thoughts like a soldier facing his enemy.
We’ll never completely forget our past mistakes.
But we get to the stage where the thought of them doesn’t cause sleepless nights or sharp pains any more.
That’s when we know we’ve truly and completely moved on from our past mistakes.
The Silver Lining of Your Mistakes
Once you get past the difficult time through resolution and your own active coping mechanism, you’ll realise that your struggle wasn’t for nothing.
I’m no longer quick to judge others.
My compassion and empathy towards people around me and their circumstances have grown.
I put my thoughts into what I do and say with careful consideration, not acting on impulse.
We’ve suffered enough and paid a high price.
Now we’re grateful for a new day to start all over again.
This time, we are wiser, and we deserve to be happy.
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