How to Move Forward and Stop Repeating The PastYour present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. ~Nido Qubein
We move through our lives based on patterns of the past, replicating the systems and dynamics that we’ve become accustomed to.
Our brains are actually trained to perpetuate these patterns, as we reinforce the neural pathways that have been previously established.
Without consciousness, it continues.
It doesn’t matter whether we like these patterns or not.
It doesn’t matter whether we have different aspirations for our lives.
We may even experience a little charge or rush when we come up against similar circumstances (even unsavory ones), as our brain seeks this repetition and rewards us when we find it.
It’s our brain’s way of maintaining homeostasis. It’s a biological imperative.
And it’s not too different from any other compulsion or addiction.
But with consciousness?
That’s a whole different story.
Recently I had the gift of a session with an intuitive healer, after another major life transition that left me reeling. I spoke with her openly about my fears and anxieties.
I shared with her the sadness I felt about the state of my life. I bemoaned this change in life course and explained how I felt grief and confusion all rolled up in one. I proudly told her, with a quivering voice, how I’d made this hard decision for the good of my son.
And then it was her turn to send me reeling.
“You think you’re being righteous in this decision, but that’s not righteous; that’s crazy!” She proceeded to describe the ways in which I had been perpetuating the same dynamics in my life for decades, based primarily on early relationships.
She pointed out, in great detail, the ways in which I had set up my life to continue this loop, like Groundhog Day.
And she was spot on.
When someone else sees straight through your crap and calls you on it so directly, it’s hard to stay in denial. This was a moment of epiphany for me.
My process moving forward was very specific to my circumstance and included lots of music, lots of journaling and lots of brutal honesty.
For you it may be different, but the gist is the same.
Here’s how to move forward without repeating your past:
1. Brutally Honest Assessment
For four weeks straight, I committed to a daily practice of written gratitude, prayer and my version of radical self-acceptance.
The daily gratitude was essential to help me keep perspective and to rev up my happy juices each day.
The written prayers were my moment to reflect on the needs of my loved ones, send healing thoughts and allow those feelings of love and connection.
The radical self-acceptance was my attempt to take an inventory of my current state and functioning. To be brutally honest with who I am and to take a moment and let my me-ness sink in. To put myself on the map, not so I could see where I’ve been but to more clearly see where I can go now.
No harsh judgments and no rationalizing.
Just like, “Oh, I complain about money,” or, “Interesting, I don’t make time for the things I love to do.” I don’t have to like those things, and I can look at them honestly to decide whether it would work better to make a change, but for now I just observe and accept them.
After four weeks of this, you’ll probably be ready for a breather.
2. Meticulous Self-Care
Don’t wait until the first four weeks are over to begin implementing a meticulous self-care regimen. Start now. Start yesterday, in fact.
The process of awareness and change is one of the most inherently stressful things we can do. To our bodies, change is stress. You’re going to feel raw, you’re going to feel tired and you’re going to need nurturing and sustenance.
This is a spiritual-emotional detox of sorts, and you’ll have to support all of your systems in getting through it.
Pay attention to your diet. This means different things to different people, but I’d recommend less of the common toxins: alcohol, sugar, caffeine, gluten and common allergens.
If you’re used to stamping out your anxiety with a nightly beer or turning to cake when things gets rough, these changes are going to be trying for you. Another change within a change, but one that will set your body up for a more resilient future.
Adjust your exercise. Do you need more intensity? Less? Longer sweat sessions? Something outdoors instead? Alone or in a group? Take the risk to stray from your normal routine, and try to check in with what really sounds good to you.
Protect your time. While you’re creating new patterns of behavior, you’ll need plenty of rest and relaxation. Things that are not in alignment with your goals for change should be left off the agenda.
Play and have fun. Pamper yourself. Drink hot tea. Spend time in nature. Listen to music that makes you feel energized when you’re tired and calm when you’re stressed. Minimize your exposure to visual media for a while. Meditate. Take baths.
Sleep. ‘Nuf said.
3. Stop Checking Out
Admit it: You do it. When things feel stressful, overwhelming, intense or just uncomfortable, you check out.
Checking out looks different for everyone. But typically if you do something frequently, compulsively or to avoid unpleasant feelings, you’re checking out.
Any of the examples below may be your form of checking out:
- Passive-aggressive communication
- Eating without hunger
- Internet use
- Working out
- Feeling “not well”
If you are checking out while you’re trying to forge a new path for your life (and new neural pathways for your brain!), it is not going to work. You will be snapped right back into your default mode.
This sort of change is dependent on consciousness.
That means feeling. Even when it feels awful.
You will need those self-care measures in place to shore you up when you take these compulsions away.
And you will have to be brutally honest with yourself about which behaviors are problematic for you. A big one for me was Facebook use. I checked often, just as a diversion from whatever uncomfortable emotions were stirring within.
I set a daily amount of Facebook use in my planner. I stuck with it for four days. Then relapsed. Then tried again.
Progress, not perfection, friends.
It’s essential to keep at it.
You can’t change what you don’t see.
And you can’t move forward if you don’t know where you are.
But where you’ve been can stay behind you, if you’re ready to tackle these changes and move forward with guts, consciousness and lots of hot tea.