I tend to find that I am an ‘extremes’ type of person. Rarely do I find the middle ground. I’m either one way or the other, never somewhere in the middle. It’s something I both love and hate. On the one hand, when I am in on something, I am ALL in. I commit, dig my heels in, and pursue the goal wholeheartedly.
This commitment has lead me to some of the things that I am the most proud of in my life so far: finishing valedictorian of my college graduating class, going through grad school twice, finishing in several running races and the list goes on. On the other hand, my overzealousness has often led me to stretch myself too thing, overcommit to things, and suffer from burnout.
The more I experience life, the more I realize that the extremes of any given behavior are rarely productive in the long term. It’s funny to me just how many things fit into this category. As with our eating and fitness habits, swinging too far on the pendulum one way or the the other rarely gets us where we want to be in the long term. We are meant to take a balanced, moderate approach. Now, this doesn’t mean that at times we don’t need to step into the extreme when the situation calls for it, but overall, living with a balanced approach to life is what yields the most healthful response.
Last week, Kacie wrote a great piece on the importance of living in the now rather than getting too caught up in what the future may hold. Today, I want to talk about the other side of the equation: living in the past. Sometimes, I find that I struggle with this just as much if not more than looking too far ahead into the future. What I would suggest to you today is that living in the past can be just as much of a hindrance to achieving your goals as being too future oriented.
It’s good to know where you came from and certainly your past experiences shape who you are today. The problem occurs when you let your past prevent you from realizing your present or your future. This can occur whether the past was a generally positive or negative experience.
On the positive side, living in the past can keep of from being satisfied in our present reality. When I graduated from college and moved to the DC metro area, I was in a word, miserable. It was a big life transition for me for many reasons. I had just come out of the college bubble and was moving to a new city where I new one person, starting grad school, trying to find a job, and overall adjusting more to city life when I grew up in very rural Pennsylvania. It was tough to say the least.
For the first few years of living here I was pretty miserable. I missed my friends from school. I missed how easy it was in college and having the instant community of friends and endless things to do. For a long time I allowed myself to get caught up in the belief that my college experience were the best years of my life and things just wouldn’t be the same. It sounds pretty silly and overly dramatic when I right it out like that, but when I look back on my first few years here, that is exactly the attitude I had.
On the other hand, sometimes our past is clouded by a lot of tough and negative experiences. In this case, you can get stuck in the mentality that the past is bound to repeat itself, that they way things were in the past is how they always will be and you will never break the cycle of pain and hardship. We carry the shame of the past with us and allow it to take hold over our lives, preventing us from moving forward and achieving our potential.
You see, being stuck in the past holds us back. It’s limiting. It says that you believe that you have either already experienced the best there is in this life and nothing in the future will compare or that you are bound to continue making the same mistakes of the past and the outlook for the future is bleak. Ouch. Neither of these is a way to live, friends. While we have this short and fleeting time on earth, we are meant to live our lives to the fullest, and for me that means living to all that God has planned for me to be.
Whether you are too focused on achieving your future or held up by the past, I would encourage you to take some for a little self reflection. Often times, these mentalities appear in our lives in the most subtle and subconscious of ways, and a little self examination is necessary to uncover these patterns. Ask yourself: how is your life going right now? What is it that is holding you back or limiting you in any way. Examine your behaviors, your attitudes, your decisions over the past and look for patterns indicating where you might be stuck in the past or future. It will be time well spent.
Health and Happiness, Beth