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The Past Is Always Present, So Make It Work For You

By Debbie Mandel

Many self-help teachers will urge you to live in the moment: “The past is over and done with. The present is a present.” Of course, it is great to fully experience the present and not dilute it with invasive thoughts of the past or even future worries - the way animals live moment to moment; however, humans are far more complex. And when someone tells you not to think about something or do something, that’s all you think about. Ask any unsuccessful dieter!

Let your past work for you

Memories are powerful teachers, lessons of the past making you wiser. Also, they can be comforting like a favorite old story to be retold or an old movie to be seen again. Ultimately, when you reflect on the past, you might finally unlock a pattern which has undermined your true potential and change what no longer works. A great byproduct is that you can recall the former self you have lost touch with throughout the years to be what you aspire to be.

7 Steps to understand where you’ve been to get where you want to go
  • Find a place to withdraw from all the nervous energy and demands around you and create the time to breathe and reflect.
  • Take stock of your hidden dreams. Recall the people from the past who inspired and fueled you to be the best that you can be. Process what they said and hear their voices again. What did they say that you were good at doing? Find it.
  • If you feel stressed and anxious, take a closer look at the roots of your daily unhappiness. What old words of criticism from parents, educators or friends still upset you? Do you use these same words in your own negative self-talk: “Fat,” “Stupid,” “Ugly,” “Never amount to anything?” It’s time to silence your inner critic and speak to yourself with compassion and respect.
  • Identify the life pattern which is holding you back. Introspect on your past emotional programming – things you feel you ought to do. What will you do differently today to accomplish for yourself? Make sure you know why you want to achieve your new goals.
  • Forgive yourself today for past failures. Create a ritual of forgiveness which is meaningful to you like reciting a prayer, or flushing away a piece of paper with your failure written on it. When you forgive yourself, you will be emotionally available to forgive others. What tends to bother people most is not that someone hurt them, but that they allowed themselves to be hurt.
  • Do you idealize the past to escape your present – the good old days, or the one that got away? Try tuning into your daily reality and investing it with the same energetic imagination.
  • Get into a state of flow and become one with whatever you are doing - where past and present merge into a single unit of time. For example, a golf swing or a dance you have practiced many times where you go from past rehearsal to present accomplishment automatically and effortlessly.
Note: Those of you who have suffered past trauma should consult a psychiatrist about revisiting the past – as some memories need a medical guide or should remain undisturbed.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: