I recently read a post on Johnny B. Truant’s blog that really hit home. So much so that I wanted to do two things: share it with my readers and 2) think on and write about each piece of his post. The post is “20 Truths About Life No One Wants To Believe” and the fourth one I am going to tackle is:
4. Guilt and regret won’t make your problems go away.
There’s no point in dwelling on bad things that happened or that you did in the past. Most people feel that it’s their duty to dwell on guilt, as if they’ll somehow be a horrible person if they refuse to keep feeling guilty. It’s not true. What happened happened. Move on.
As I heard the Eagles say: get over it.
There are really only two* uses for the past: 1) To learn from it and 2) and use it to recall (fond) memories and feel gratitude.
Learning from the past means (first) looking at what you intended, what happened and how you performed relative your intention and expectation.
Next, you determine where you were deficient and if you were, does it matter (to you… )?
If you decide, “Yes, I really do want to create what I intended,” then look at what you can do to better prepare for next time.
That’s it. If it went poorly, and you want to create the result, then adjust your approach. If you didn’t achieve your goal, and it turns out that’s fine – then it’s over.
The other key use of the past is in consciously creating feelings of gratitude.
Study after study shows that cultivating feelings of gratitude is one of the most effective things you can do to increase happiness and well-being.
Practicing gratitude** helps ward off “hedonic adaptation” (HA) (which is, largely, a First World problem).
HA is where no matter how much we get what want, we tire of it after a relatively short period; constantly moving on to the next desire, thinking that once we get that, then things will be fine and we’ll be happy.
Being grateful teaches you to enjoy what you have. And, perhaps more importantly, gratitude allows you to want what you want more intelligently.
That’s what is missing in so many of our lives: we don’t know how to authentically and intelligently want.
Instead of carefully consulting ourselves and looking at who we are and what goals and aspirations really make sense, for us as individuals, we take our cues from those around us – and more perniciously, from the media and popular culture.
Do I need to sum up? (Really? Do I… ?)
Okay, fine, in the spirit of Mr. Truant:
- learn to learn from your experiences
- learn to to appreciate who you are and what you have in life
Oh yeah, and meditation helps with everything, and anything.
* There may be more, but this is what I going with here…
** My best suggestion right now to learn more about practicing gratitude is to check out the work of Robert Emmons at UC Davis.