Self-ImprovementEncouragement

How To Let Go Of The Past So You Can Finally Move Forward

Everything that glitters isn’t gold, but that doesn’t stop us from looking. Unfortunately, most of the glittery things threatening to steal our joy are usually stuck in our past. The old boyfriend, the job, the friendships, the glory days. You know what I mean—the time when you were thinner, prettier, happier. We can get trapped looking in the wrong direction and not realize that we are looking away from what really matters—the future.

At 17 years old, I was in what I would consider my prime. I was cute, fun-loving, a dancer, a cheerleader, and a boy magnet. And for so long, that’s all I could focus on—the moments in time when I was significant. And although life is good and I’ve had many successes, I couldn’t stop peeking over my shoulders to remember the times. I would ask myself why the past was so important to me. The harsh reality was that I convinced myself that history was as good as it gets. So many of us think our golden days are behind us. That’s true, but only if we let it be.

Will you let your best day stand behind you, waving goodbye as you transcend into the future? That would be a life wasted. Yeah, you were amazing back then. Your relationship was on point. You had it all together. But think of how much more amazing you can be with what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown! I won’t tell you that it will be easy, because we all know it’s so hard to say goodbye. You will mourn the baggage when you release it. Slowly, you will become better. You won’t cry about it anymore. You will thank the past for its lesson and run headfirst into the future that’s awaiting you. How do I know? Because I’ve had to do the same. I wrestled my history and broke free from its grips. Through three questions, we can stop focusing on the past and move forward.

1. Where is my heart?

Where are you? No, not physically—not even emotionally. But where did you leave the best version of yourself? When were you most passionate about life? Where did your heart break? Where did you leave the pieces scattered across the floor as you walked away? It’s essential to find that place so that you can reconcile within yourself. That will require deep breathing, tissues, and resisting the urge to stuff your face with a whole carton of ice cream.

I fought to locate my heart so many times. What if I never found her? Or what if she was better off lost? That wasn’t true. She was waiting to be discovered, to be invited into the future. My heart was waiting for me right outside of my last relationship, the place where I stopped thinking I was special. There I settled. And life went on. I’ve gotten married, I’ve had kids, but I lost my spark. No, my heart wasn’t entangled in the love of another. I simply lost the IT factor. And hadn’t realized it.

2. Why am I here?

This is the hardest part to do, but when you work at it, it produces the most impactful results for your future. When you find out why your heart is stuck in the first place, you reveal the lies that have become part of your identity. You can’t ask yourself once. You’ll lie—unintentionally, of course. You have to get down to the root cause, the belief system. In strategy, they call it the Five-Why Problem Solving Method. This is literally asking why over and over again, digging down so that you can heal. Here’s my example:

Why am I stuck thinking 17 was my best year? Because I was thriving.

Why were you thriving? Because I felt significant.

Why did you feel significant then and not know? Because people showed me immense love. I was living a lifestyle of popularity and desire.

Why did that mean so much to you? Because for so long, I’ve felt invisible as a child.

Why did you feel invisible? Because my mother always worked, and my father never wanted anything to do with me.

Right there, I have uncovered something that one “why” would never tell me. The real reason I can’t stop thinking about the past was deeper than thriving. I got to a root so deep that needed to be tended. Cue instant giant tears! But the good news is you can heal what is real. I could never really heal by saying, “I just want to thrive again”—that’s nonsense. But I can deal with my daddy issues. Every time they come up, I know how to fight.

3. Where am I going?

So often we aren’t moving forward because we don’t know where we’re going. There’s not a hope for the future because we haven’t looked towards it. When you do the work to reconcile your heart, you are ready to look to the future—not with falsities that everything will magically get better, but the knowledge to make it better. The best part is you get to decide where you’re going. Are you taking a U-turn to a life you used to know or creating another one even better than before?

Listen, you’ve got this. And when you let go of your past, you will learn it’s only a glimpse of the future that is to come. I hope that you create a future that you desire instead of a cheap imitation of the past that you can never get back.

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About the author
Without the storyteller the future is dead. I'm the storyteller. Follow Breonna on Instagram or read more articles from Breonna on Thought Catalog.

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