We all make mistakes. It is the unavoidable fact of human life. From those mistakes we grow into wiser and more mature humans. Some people refer to their failures as an important part of their success, as each mistake helped them to know the wrong directions and what they don’t want to have or get in their lives. This made it clearer for them to define where do they want to go and what do they want, in terms of behaviors they do, people they choose to become friends with, and all aspects of life. Those lessons helped them to take better choices. You may ask: “If mistakes are essential for our growth, why do we have lingering feelings whenever we make one? What makes overcoming our past experiences so hard?”.
According to Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), our present behaviour is a representation of our past experiences. From those experiences we established our beliefs about people, things and events in life that became our model of the world from which we operate. That’s why digging deeper into the client’s psyche is so important to discover any hidden beliefs that are unconsciously controlling their lives, and not bringing them the results they want.
We often hear that history repeats itself. In our lives repeating a traumatized history, full of painful experiences can be damaging to the human psyche, and consequently his/her health. It may also cause undesirable consequences in our physical world, like not performing well at school or work, losing friends and dear ones, divorce…etc. hindering us from progressing in life or experiencing the happiness that we all aspire.
Imagine that all mistakes you made as a teenager continued to affect your life years later. Seems unfair, right? You are not alone on this journey. We have all been bogged down by our past mistakes. We have regrets about the things we wanted to do but didn’t, and the things we didn’t want to do but did them. We have all been through experiences that seemed unjustifiable or fair. A lot of people go through feelings of pain, anger, shame, blame and regret. It is okay, all those feelings are valid and normal.
Our past has surely contributed to shaping our lives up to this point. Our current life is a result of our past actions and choices. But the good news is our future is defined by how we act in the present moment. Now it is time to release our past life and past mistakes with honor and respect, as that old story doesn’t serve us anymore. Our past does not have to keep holding us back or dictate our future. And our life story from this point forward does not have to be a copy of our past. We are creating a new one here and now.
By reading these words, deciding and acting differently, we are shifting our lives from how they used to be to how we want them to be. Following these steps will help us to build a a happier life and lead us towards a more fulfilling future. I call this approach the ‘AFALFS’ approach.
‘Acknowledging’ and ‘forgiving’ ourselves and others are the first two step to healing and releasing the old story. We cannot deny what happened! At the same time if we keep blaming ourselves or others for whatever happened, we cannot free ourselves from it. Forgiveness is liberating. Forgiveness is done for us not for others. It does not mean condoning the mal behaviour, it rather means, “I don’t want whatever happened to control my life by focusing on it, thinking about it all the time, and having intense feelings”. Don’t give power to people to shape your ideas, thoughts and finally your future. Forgive to set yourself free and have the mental space to focus on your new life.
Next, you need to ‘accept’ that whatever you did in your past was out of inexperience. All people do things according to their best knowledge, including behaviours they do in certain situations. Apologize if required, amend if possible, and then move on. What happened has happened. Don’t be hard on yourself. You can’t be a better person without mistakes. Have you heard the saying, “You need to look bad before looking good”? It is also not possible to build a happier future if you are still stuck in the past. Our past mistakes are meant to guide us not define us. Breathe in, breathe out and move ahead with your future.
It is also important to ‘learn’ from your mistakes. Mistakes have the power to turn you into something better than you were before. Figure out the reasons behind your breakup, poor decisions, or bad experiences. Watch out for the same red flags in the future. They will help you not to repeat the same blunders. Learn how your missteps can polish you into a new person.
Next, ‘focus’ on your future. Have a vision for your life. Shifting your focus from the past to your future will make you achieve greater things and influence people in a positive way. The energy you are investing on figuring out what went wrong in the past in order to undo it is not going to lead you anywhere. It is better to invest your energy on the learning, and how this learning can make your future better.
Later, ‘surround’ yourself with people who talk about the future. Avoid spending much time with people who ‘glorify’ their past. You may sometimes feel that you need to revisit your past world, let it be a nice exploratory journey to recall the learned lessons, and be in a full control of your thoughts. Don’t allow yourself to indulge in past negative thoughts. It is your present that will drive your actions and reactions.
Lastly, you are who you are now – not who you used to be. Change is the only constant thing in life. Our lives can change anytime for better or worse. The crux is to keep moving and have control over twists and turns. Release the past from your mind to make a space for your present and future. Leave the past behind because it is already behind you! And start living your new you!