Why Focusing On Our Past Can Be A Good Thing

The famous philosopher Lao Tzu said, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

There is certainly some truth to this. Many people find their minds wandering back to the past, which then triggers worry about the future. Learning to live in the present is the key. But focusing on our past doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.

Of course, there are those who can become seemingly trapped in that delicate web of “what ifs”. What if you had a better childhood? What if you got the job you were trying to get? What if that relationship didn’t end?

Focusing on our past like this will only serve to attract stress and mental exhaustion. It is normal to sometimes reminisce on memories and feel sadness, regret or pain. But dwelling too much on those thoughts and emotions can cause you to sabotage your present as well as your relationships with others.

The truth is that focusing on our past should be something quite powerful that defines us. There are important lessons to be gained if we are open to learning what they represent.

What You Can Gain From The Past


Each experience–the good and bad, should mold us in some way. No one should ever aspire to remain exactly the same as that is not how life should be lived.

Gratitude for the negative things you discarded

There were places, people and things that didn’t serve your higher purpose. And if at one point they did, be grateful for those times. But situations and people evolve, as do you. Be proud of yourself for recognizing it was time to move on.

Gratitude for the things that did happen

Anything that made you smile was always worth it. Perhaps you met someone whom you thought was “the one” but an unavoidable situation meant it didn’t work out. Don’t regret that it didn’t happen. Be grateful that you had the experience of such a wonderful person. Whether is it by circumstances or death, no one is ever supposed to last in our lives forever and our ways will eventually part. But this is also beautiful because there is so much you are yet to attract in your life.

Seeing that things happen for the best

Irrespective of those “what ifs”, life undoubtedly always works out for the best. It is the idea of this unpredictable adventure that takes you to moments, places or people that you could not have predicted. With high insight, it led you to where you should be next–even if it was another lesson or change you needed to embrace. Accept it. You are still growing and progressing.

The realization that you are stronger than you think

Focusing on our past reminds us of some of the darkest moments that we were able to survive. Would someone else be capable of getting through that difficulty as well as you? Probably not. But you did and you should have pride in that.

In the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the protagonist faces hoards of difficulties due to his disabilities. In the final chapter, he makes a list of all the new, challenging things he intends to do and ends by saying, “And I know I can do this because I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery of Who Killed Wellington and I found my mother and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything.”

It is time to remind yourself that you are powerful enough to achieve whatever you want.

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