by Sandy Karn

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Life's most important lessons are amazingly varied and can be quite confusing.  Even so, they most all have two things in common. First, they usually are not particularly complicated. It certainly can sometimes take a while to get it; but once you do get it, the lesson is normally straight-up and to the point. Second, and here is the rub, the lessons invariably are a "So now you tell me!" kind of thing. 

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Most experts on personal or business success--myself  included--stress the importance of focusing our attention on the present moment, the here and now. We are cautioned that focusing on the past can cause us to get stuck in old patterns and activities. After all, even the Book of Genesis reminds us of what happened to Lot's poor wife when she chose to look back rather than moving confidently into her new future. On the other hand, focusing on the future can lead to pure fantasy, since action can only be taken in the present moment. Clearly, the here and now is where it's at! 


There are times when looking back can be very helpful. The key is to use looking back as a tool that we consciously select to be used at a given time for a specific purpose. By limiting our gaze, filtering out everything that will not be helpful, and returning our focus to the present as soon as our purpose has been served, we can make looking back a very powerful technique to support our growth. 

There are many times when looking back is simply a waste of time and a robber of energy. For example, if you have made an unwise or unfortunate business move in the past, it's not of any value to spend your time reviewing it in your mind's eye time and time again and feeling frustrated about it. However, you can certainly benefit from reviewing that event to identify what went wrong and what you can learn from that experience. 

Sometimes we learn a lot more from our mistakes than from our successes. Learning what not to do in the future is of great value. Therefore, if we haven't specifically identified what we've learned from our various failures, mistakes, or unwise choices, then we can benefit from doing so. We can review individual events to see how we contributed to the less than desirable results and what we can do differently in the future. 

We can also look for patterns that may appear involving a number of events that suggest aspects of our behavior and/or limiting beliefs that we may wish to modify. Once we have done this, it is then time to move on. 

What about good stuff that we've done in the past? Don't we want to think about that sometimes? Yes, we do. There are a number of reasons why this can be helpful:

1. It can make us feel better when the chips are down.  It can help us to put things in perspective, and to realize that life has its ups and downs. We have reached those high points in the past and, therefore, we can expect to have success again in the future.

2. Looking back on our successes can help us to remember what does work, what does bring about the kinds of results that we want. In times of complacence or slumps in our motivation, reflecting back upon our successes can remind us of the things that made us passionate and fired up about our work.

3. Looking back on our successes can help us to renew our self-confidence and to feel thankful for all that we have experienced and for all that we have achieved. 

By controlling the way in which you look back on past experiences you can greatly enhance your performance in the here and now.

Your goal:

To use looking back at selected times in your life to learn from past experiences and to enhance your level of motivation and self-confidence, yet avoiding getting stuck in rehashing the past and failing to act in the present.

The result:

You are able to draw insights and lessons from past experiences which are applicable to current activities and you are able to call upon your past successes to provide confidence and encouragement when needed as you deal with current challenges. You avoid getting stuck in the past, dwelling at length upon past events and failing to give your full attention to the present. 

Your assignment:

Monitor your thoughts for a while. When you find yourself thinking about a past event, ask what you can learn from that experience. If you have already gleaned the lesson or cannot find anything worthwhile to learn, then gently release that thought and redirect your attention to the present moment.

Recall one or two particularly successful experiences in various areas of your life. Focus on each experience with particular attention on the positive emotions you experience at that time. Anchor those positive feelings in your memory so that you can recall them at will to bolster your confidence and motivation in a challenging situation.

Wishing You the Very Best!

Sandy Karn
A Results Specialist

Sandy Karn is president of her own company, Creative Results Sources, Inc., a consulting and training company of over 30 years. She is a Field Manager with Inscape Publishing, publishers of proven self-assessment tools used in training and consulting. Take her WINNER's PROFILE found on:  http://www.keykonnections.com/quiz-test.html

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