Live in the Past. . .and It Will Become Your Future
Jeff Keller

I enjoy speaking with people who come up to me after one of my presentations to let me know a little about their background and experiences.  Sometimes, however, these people will introduce themselves  and in less than a minute, they're telling me about some negative experience that has held them back in life.

It goes something like this:  "My name is John, and my father was an alcoholic," or "My name is Marilyn, and I grew up in this really dysfunctional family."

Before you send me a letter asking me to be more sensitive to people with past hurts, hear me out.  I'm not saying that people with past trauma or negative feelings should deny that those events happened or refuse to acknowledge their feelings.

In fact, I would encourage these people to seek counseling from mental health professionals or to visit a doctor if they have physical ailments.  Everyone falls into the trap of discussing unpleasant circumstances, and I'm no exception.

Yet, I think it's important in these instances to ask ourselves:  "How long will I choose to dwell on this negative experience?  Why do I inject this topic into all of my conversations?  Is this helping to create better results in my life?"

I think we'd all agree that Oprah Winfrey is a positive role model who has accomplished some extraordinary things in her life.  As you probably know, Oprah was sexually molested and abused as a young girl.  She never denies this aspect of her past and readily admits that it still affects her.  Yet she doesn't begin every one of her shows by saying, "Hi, this is Oprah and I was abused as a child."  If she did that, she would never have reached the place where she is now.

I'll bet that the majority of her attention is on the things she can do today and in the future to make a positive difference in the world.  Simply put, she doesn't dwell on the abuse she suffered years ago.  That's a choice she has made, and we can all learn from her.

Author and speaker Eckhart Tolle talks about the way we live in the past and keep telling people our "story."  We tell it to everyone we come across.  And generally the story is heavily concentrated on negative events rather than on positive, uplifting experiences.  We tend to drag our story around like a ball and chain attached to our ankles, pointing to it and anxious to provide all the gory details.

Where does that get us?  Well, it might elicit some sympathy.  Along those lines, it might also get us involved in some very time-consuming negative conversations with other "story-tellers" who are all too eager to try to "top" our tale of woe with one of their own.  ("If you think that's bad, well, let me tell you about....")  And perhaps our story is something we use as an excuse for why we're not out there living up to our fullest potential.  You see, if we have this horrible handicap, there's no use trying to achieve anything great.  We can continue to live in our comfort zone of limitation.

By the way, this isn't confined to stories involving severe trauma.  For instance, some people tell you about how they were unfairly fired from a job six months ago or how their allergies are acting up.  They may tell you that they are not appreciated at work.

Whether you're thinking and talking about a tragic event or even a minor irritation, you're working against yourself and just perpetuating negative conditions.  There is a Law of Dominant Thought, which states that we're always moving in the direction of our currently dominant thoughts.  That's why it's so important to keep your focus on what you want instead of what you don't want.  Said another way, what you focus on expands.

Wayne Dyer discusses this principle in his excellent new book, The Power of Intention.  Dyer quotes the following statement from Thomas Troward: "The law of flotation was not discovered by contemplating the sinking of things, but by contemplating the floating of things... "  I invite you to re-read this intriguing statement.  What Troward meant is that we don't achieve our objectives in life by contemplating (or discussing) the opposite of what we want to attain.

We don't attract wealth when we contemplate being broke.  We don't get healthy by contemplating how sick we are. . . and how bad we feel.  Even if you talk about the event while mentioning a desire to change it, you're still reinforcing the negative event.  For instance, you might keep saying to yourself and others, "I keep eating too much ice cream day after day and I need to stop doing that."  Your mind hears "ice cream" and will want more ice cream!  It's far better to think about having a healthy body and to start eating more fruits and vegetables.

Here's an important qualification:  you're going to find that when you do have a painful experience, whether it's an illness, the death of a loved one or even losing your job, the wound is raw and you'll find yourself talking about the incident often.  In fact, many people will ask you about it.  Thus, talking about it is only natural.

Your mission is to put the event behind you as quickly as possible.  In other words, stop thinking and talking about the past event as soon as you can.  No one can tell you what length of time is appropriate.  It depends on your unique situation.  Remember, this isn't about denial.  It's about moving your life forward in a positive direction.

Today, and in the future, notice when you find yourself thinking and talking about negative conditions or negative experiences of your past. . . unless, of course, you want to reinforce your pain and suffering and create more of it in the days to come.  Now's the time to let go of the past, so you can tell a new, happier story in the future.

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