The Past Beckons

Rearview Mirror

I think about the past a lot. Who doesn’t?

Of course, like most people I cherish the great memories.

And then there are the difficult ones. There’s nothing I can do to change them (Boy, that LIVESTRONG tattoo sure seems like a bad idea now). Few things can amend unresolved issues with others.

The only thing the complete past — good and bad — offers is experience. Experience to draw upon, contemplate, and possibly use to become wiser and evolve as a human being.

This is true for both business and personal life.

Yet, dwelling on the past for too long is one of the most unproductive exercises one can engage in.

There comes a time when I need to start acting and moving forward, or else risk becoming lost in the past, unable to achieve anything, paralyzed.

Such is the price of over-analysis.

For me, there are relationships and things that will never get resolved to my full satisfaction. Even if they were, I doubt I would feel completed. That resolution lies within.

Regardless of whether I achieve peace and reconciliation, the only way to live is to move beyond. Move forward.

Such is the truth of the past. The good stuff fulfills me, and the bad memories leave me hungry for better. It provides a motivation to succeed.

Once I get to that point, it’s time to cut the cord, and leave the past behind me in the rearview mirror. Lessons learned.

Cord. Cut.

Don’t look back.

How do you handle the past?


  • Go gently into that good night (poetic license).

  • I was talking with a friend recently (in job transition) whose past felt like a ball-and-chain – a real limiter of current choices. What we had to do was extract from that past (the good and the bad) what the core story of “him” was, then begin to design a new future. We ended up ripping up his resume and putting it in the fireplace. This liberated him like nothing else! (note – trying to make similar breaks with personal loose ends, and it’s not easy. As an advisor said to me, it’s going to be like trying to write left-handed…)

    • The past makes you who you are, your actions today make you who you will become. The two do not have to be synonymous as your friend’s resume story illustrates so well. Thanks for sharing this story, Steve! Good to see you, too.

    • I love this story! I had this green desk lamp that I used to bring to my work and place on my desk. I had that green desk lamp at 2 companies that both laid me off. At the second company, as they were walking me to the door, my then-boss reminded me to get my lamp. I told her to keep it – or better off, throw it in the trash. That lamp was nothing but bad luck and a bad reminder.

  • I wouldn’t say it was THAT bad of an idea, as it was an event shared with friends and something that brings memories to a great event.

    The scariest part about reflecting on the past is when you start to construct revisionalist history, which we’re all victim of. We look to the good and bad with that different lens. So cutting the cord is what we should all practice more.

    • Yeah, that’s why there’s always two sides to a coin. I am very distrusting of people who claim victim hood or wrongs in personal relationships because of this. Sometimes it’s legit, often it’s not. Cut the cord and move on.

  • Geoff,

    I definitely learn from my experience. However, I don’t dwell on them other than to recall and recount fun or meaningful times.

    Lately, I have learned to live in the moment and look forward to the future. Life is fleeting. Moments past are moments passed. They cannot be recovered or redone. Whether good ones or bad ones, they are finished.

    We are alive today.We are alive in this moment. Make every one count.


    • Yes, and moments past over-reflected on in the present are new moments lost. Great comment, Marc. Thank you.

  • I recently discovered the effectiveness of reminding myself that regrets are, literally, all in my head. Sounds glib but it works wonders. Good post Geoff.

  • I really enjoyed this post Geoff. It’s funny, I don’t know why or when I took this approach, but when it comes to the past, I try and deal with it in the present. (What??? – Yes, thats what I said) What I mean by that is, I deal with the thing that happen in the vicinity of the time they happen in (the present) and when I have assessed I have done all I can do, and I have evaluated what I could have done differently, if anything, I seem to be at peace with it and move on. I carry the lessons of the past with me always, and then I just always move forward.

    It sounds maybe too easy – in fact it is not. To take a good hard look at things while you are in them is actually much harder at the moment, but to be able to control oneself and make that time to do this kind of assessment on the spot, every day even, it pays off in the long run. The most important thing though, forgive yourself every day by learning from any mistakes. If we learn, there is nothing lost.

    Reflection in the moment. Thats how I deal with it, and some people might think I am crazy, the way I move forward, but really it’s a lot more peaceful and in the process, it gets things taken care of sooner so they don’t linger.
    The past is nice, or maybe not, but its just that- the past. The possibilities are endless when you look at the fact that every day we start new. Thats what I hold on to.

    Here’s to tomorrow :)

    • I think this is very healthy, Mila. In some ways there some good zen overtones to this.

      The way I was taught to handle the past is to hold hurts/wounds and heal them, but not to let seeds of the past impact the immediate present, unless of course, they must. And when they do, you do the holding/nurturing bit until you heal and let go.

      Wherever we are in our heads — past, present or future — we are really only in the immediate now as you say. Thank you so much for this lovely comment.

  • It is very human to not be able to forget the past. We don’t choose what memories to preserve and what to wipe away. They linger and things trigger them that we cannot control. My thoughts on this – and a couple things that helped me – is to respect my decision to put something in the past. Now that doesn’t mean forget it, it means to put an end to it so that it dos not continue into the next day of my life. That could be a relationship, feelings about something or even physical object like where I live.

    • We never forget, hopefully we forgive. Not just them, but ourselves as well. Interesting point on places and objects.

  • Rush comes to mind:

    “You can choose a ready guide
    In some celestial voice.
    If you choose not to decide
    You still have made a choice.
    You can choose from phantom fears
    And kindness that can kill
    I will choose a path that’s clear
    I will choose Freewill”

  • Learn from the past – move forward and make progress with new found knowledge and understanding – have a vision for the future.

    The bottom line, you’re more capable today than at any other point in the history of your life, regardless of your personal/ professional status at the moment.

    Everyday fully lived and experienced is another day under your belt that shapes and empowers your future.

    If your past has you feeling regrets, harboring resentments or is
    preventing you from progressively moving forward – you’re literally in a mental prison and if you don’t break free, your greatest days have already been lived… You might as well be dead, it would feel better.

    You’re greatest days and most successful accomplishments will come as a result of moving forward and keep the past where it belongs… in the past.

    Learn from it and elevate your life.

    Great stuff, Geoff : )

    • This is a great comment. I think you are so right about the prisons of our minds. We put ourselves in hell, and then suffer for it, never fully understanding the pain is self induced, not the result of others or the past. I agree on the feeling dead aspect of it. I really think this is hell on earth.

  • I don’t spend much time dwelling on the past, so I guess that is how I handle it. It isn’t very sexy or poetic, though.

  • Hey Geoff,

    I learned some time ago that the past does not define me; yet it has shaped who I am today. When I look at my past now it’s just to evaluate what hasn’t worked the way I wanted it to and what can I do now to make it better.

    In hindsight, I look back and wonder why I made the decisions I made, knowing now that I “inherited” beliefs that were not truly mine and it’s taken me a long time to begin to define anew my beliefs.

    But no regrets. The past holds many lessons that has allowed me to evolve – shaping me, allowing me to course correct, leading me to be the person I was meant to be. I’m still a work in progress.

    Awesome thought piece! ;-)

    • It’s amazing how much our ancestors influence our way of life, and how much of our current thinking is rooted in this past manual. Of course awareness offers the lessons you speak of, and choose a different path (or stay on the current one). It’s truly a great approach to living, to be free to move toward progress.


  • I would hope that friends from 15 years ago, or even 10, would say that I’ve changed somewhat. In a good way.

    • I am sure some think less of me now than compared to 15 years ago. Of course, I think that might be a good thing, too. LOL!

  • Hmm, I had an abusive upbringing and ran away from home…eventually living with my grandparents. After that, i’ve had a very fun and fulfilling “past”. I haven’t always made the “most right” decision, but I’m not burdened by too many regrets. I always MADE the decision (vs dangerous analysis paralysis) and tried to ensure it wasn’t the absolutely wrong one.

    I suppose some relationships (biz and personal) could have been handled better, but I recognize our infinite fallibility. My biggest key is that I love the person I’ve chosen to share past/present/future with…so we generally look fondly at the past, enjoy the present, and dream about the future.

    Sappy, but it works for me.

    • I do feel like Stuart Smalley visited, but I think you are right, it is a journey of the self, and accepting one’s character, good and bad. Either way, it’s nice to be comfortable in one’s skin, cheers!

  • the past is knowledge. It helps me to realize who I am – and who I have yet to become.

    Examining the past adds fuel to the fire of existence. You can either use the fire to keep warm on a cold night. Or use the fire to burn in a living hell. I try to choose the former. Even though dabbling in hell seems more exciting some days :)

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