Please do not allow a painful past to destroy your gorgeous and beautiful future. A lot of people, including me, get stuck in the past. Doing so is human, as painful experiences embed in us fears that then shape our futures, often in ways that have us unknowingly sabotaging ourselves. Did that make sense to everyone? This realization was eye opening for me, especially since I asked myself a while ago what it is that I’ve been doing to sabotage myself and hold myself back. That was when I really took a look and became aware of the words that came out of my mouth.
We’ve all had a painful experience, a trauma of some kind. From that experience, you may be holding on to anger at someone or something. It may have been a situation where you were treated unfairly, taken advantage of, and hurt in ways you haven’t been able to shake. I have been, and it shaped me in ways I never even realized.
There was one particular time, back after I was newly divorced and my children were very young, when I had to find a new place for us to live, and I could not, because every door was slammed in my face. I was turned away as soon as the homeowners learned that I had a son with autism. In fact, one so boldly stated to me that he had worked with an autistic child and knew they were out of control and would wreck things in a home, so he wouldn’t even consider us. This left me with a deadline, overwhelming stress, and no resources left. I ended up having to rent a home from a predator who forced me to renovate it at my expense just to make it liveable.
This was something I carried with me for a lot of years. I didn’t even realize how it had shaped me, the judgement I encountered. I unknowingly assumed I would always be taken advantage of. Although my son had never wrecked a home, and neither had any other children I’d met who were doing early intervention, that homeowner’s judgement shaped me, and I assumed everyone felt the same. That wasn’t true, but it was just one of many judgements I encountered over and over. It was a judgement I also held on to unknowingly, and it shaped me to the extent that I’ve found myself going back and identifying times from many years ago that were affected by that painful past experience.
When I first learned about this concept from Robin Sharma, he shared a story that he called “The Las Vegas taxi driver syndrome.” Robin was in Vegas and wanted to go to a great restaurant there. He climbed in the back of the cab and told the driver where he wanted to go, and the driver said, “Oh, that’s a great restaurant! You’re really lucky to be able to go to a restaurant like that.” Robin asked the driver why, and he said, “Well, it’s sort of expensive. I can’t go to a place like that.” Robin was empathetic, of course, and the driver started to tell him his story. He was divorced and had problems with his ex-wife, and his life was very difficult. He didn’t have anything at the time. Robin had great compassion for the driver and asked, “Well, when did this happen to you? When were you divorced? When did all this disruption happen in your life?” The driver replied, “It was seven years ago.”
No judgement on the guy, because even I’ve had to examine myself, my life, to find the things I’m holding on to. We all know someone who does this, and maybe you recognize from this story something you’re reliving over and over. I’ve found myself thinking, “Oops, I’m still holding on to some things that have held me back.” Just like in the story I shared above, which happened so long ago. Just like the Vegas taxi driver, who was holding on to a tragic event that had happened seven years earlier. There are a lot of people living in the past. I was one of them, and it’s easy to get stuck in that kind of life.
If you’re like a lot of people out there, think of it this way: Something that happened to you in the past can either make you bitter or make you better. Your pain can be transmitted into power. The things that have broken your heart are the things that can open your heart. If you look at the great leaders, great humanitarians, those A players, they all have one thing in common. They’ve suffered more than the ordinary person. If you look at some of these people, though, you’ll see that they’re smiling now. Ask yourself how you can take everything that happened to you and use it as gold. Take every single painful experience, and take that judgement you may not even realize you’re carrying, and turn it into fuel. Make yourself a better thinker, a better person, a more loving human being, a braver person, and a person who truly practices heroism to live out the rest of your life.
This is what I’ve done and am doing every day, taking all those past painful experiences and using them to be a better person. You can too. Use all that pain, all those things that broke your heart, and allow them to open your heart. Ask yourself, are there any past moments you’re stuck in and reliving over and over? After you do this, ask yourself, what can you do to change this feeling? How can you transform it into power?
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Andy Friessen has packed up everything and moved his family two states away to protect his wife, newborn babies and stepson from the threats of his mother. What Andy doesn’t know is that they’ll soon face a new threat, one he never saw coming.
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