4 Tips for Leaving the Past Behind and Focusing on the Future

Sometimes the past feels as though it’s haunting us—it’s so easy to get stuck thinking about “should haves,” “what ifs” and “why nots.” But dwelling on these thoughts can lead to self criticism and a damaged sense of self esteem. It’s time to move forward so you have the opportunity to grow. Here are a few tips to start focusing on what you do have some control over: the future.

Accept What You Can’t Change

teens walking on sidewalk

Image Credit: Freestocks.org

We can’t change the past, no matter how much we wish we could. Accepting what you can’t change can be a difficult process, but it can also be a liberating one. In other words, it helps to let go of the guilt and stress, which will put you in the right mindset to move forward.

Forgive Yourself

Of course, one significant aspect that follows accepting what you can’t change is learning to forgive yourself. We can certainly be our harshest critics, and it’s often us who holds ourselves to blame long after we should. Remember that you’re human and that making mistakes is all a part of growing and learning. Think about what you learned from the mistake and consider how you might change your approach in the future.

Laugh and Look at the Whole Picture

teens sitting outside and laughing

Image Credit: lavaki

Laughter truly is an excellent medicine. Not only does it boost your mood and reduce anxiety, humor also helps you see things from a different perspective. It even creates a psychological distance that allows you to remove yourself from the problem, and consider the whole picture.

For example, were there moments that were actually enjoyable? Funny? A good lesson? Finding humor in a situation, whenever possible, lets you remember the good moments, not simply the ones that made you feel frustrated.

Set New Goals

Hopefully by now, you’ve been able to change your perspective on a past situation. It’s time to switch your focus to the future. In fact, setting goals for what’s ahead can be a great source of reconciliation for yourself and with others.

One thing to keep in mind when setting goals is to make them SMART:

  • Specific: Try to set clear and specific goals instead of general ones. For example, “I want to run twice a week” instead of “I want to be healthy.”
  • Measurable: Goals are easier to keep when you can measure your success. Otherwise, you won’t know you’re on track or if you’ve accomplished it.
  • Achievable: While it’s good to push yourself, can you imagine yourself accomplishing the goals you’ve set? Sometimes an effective way to do this is by breaking down a long-term goal into steps to help keep you going.
  • Relevant: For you to feel motivated and willing to see things through to the end, your goal has to be something truly meaningful to you.
  • Time-Bound: Creating a timeline can ensure goals have focus, and you’ll be more likely to meet them when they have a reasonable deadline attached.

At the end of the day, remember that you have potential. Your past doesn’t define you—your future lies ahead and it’s up to you to create the one you want.

Feature Image: Hannah Morgan