Tips for Letting Go of the Past

Improve your future by letting go of your past. 

If there’s something from your past that is holding you back, it’s important to let it go. Letting go does not mean erasing the past or discarding the lessons you learned. But it does mean that you must build a bridge to the future that allows you to flourish. Here are six tips for letting go of whatever is holding you back.

1. Discard the debris.

Emotional connections are often triggered by material things. So it makes sense to discard the material debris associated with the problematic event from your past. If the bad memory is a broken relationship, throw away all photos of the individual and all items that remind you of the person. If the past problem is a failed business, put everything connected with that company in boxes and throw them into the garbage (or store them a dark corner of your basement).

2. Rewrite the past.

In addition to disposing of old debris, you may need to discard old interpretations of the past. Perhaps you were abused in a relationship and learned to think of yourself as a powerless victim. You could revise that interpretation to perceive yourself as a survivor who did what was possible in the circumstances to ensure that you survived. And your survival at that time means that you are now able to move forward into a brighter future.

3. Build a bridge to the future.

If you’re stuck in the past, it’s necessary to commit to doing something that pulls you into the future. That could be a college program that you register in, a job you accept, a fitness plan you commit to, or simply a one-way ticket to another city. You need a concrete plan to do something that represents a complete break with the past.

4. Make amends.

If the past that burdens you includes actions of yours that you now regret, do whatever is realistically possible to make amends. Obviously, you must be careful about saying anything that might have legal consequences. Also, be cautious about doing something that could reopen the wounds of another person. Within these parameters, it is appropriate to apologize and/or take another action to repair what was broken by your actions.

5. Show forgiveness.

Just as you should try to make amends, which is a way of asking for forgiveness, you should also be willing to extend forgiveness to whoever wronged you. This advice also comes with certain caveats. It may be problematic to explicitly forgive someone who abused you or committed another crime. Also, it may be unwise to express forgiveness if the other person has indicated a reluctance to accept that they did anything wrong. But where you believe that the other person would benefit from your expression of forgiveness, doing so is appropriate and helps to free you from the past.

6. Believe.

Finally, after you’ve taken all the actions described here, one other ingredient must be added to the mix. You must believe that the course you’re pursuing is the best choice for your life and that you will succeed. It is essential that you be fully convinced that your self-transformation is possible and desirable.

Leaving the past behind is not easy. There are many ways in which your resolve may be tested. Nevertheless, following these recommendations will allow you to move forward into a brighter future. -By John Dunnery