Everybody Has a Past
Turning Your Struggles Into Positive Action
Whether your past is marked by privilege and abundance or poverty and struggle, every single one of us has a story to tell. It’s a safe bet that everyone you meet, no matter your first impressions, has gone through tough times. You’re not unique in that way, and it’s important to understand the turbulent nature of the human experience before you can really start to let go and move on.
It’s incredibly important to share our stories, discuss our challenges, and break the cycle of abuse in all its forms by building one another up. We can seek to experience less guilt about our own pasts when we can empathize with the stories of others — no matter the magnitude of those stories — and we can learn how to overcome challenges and take the steps necessary to create a better future. However, our stories should not hold us back. They are just that; old stories. Instead, they should embolden us to work harder, live intentionally and be present, and seek out people who share the vision of brighter days.
It’s hard to break away from your past and pave your own way. For some people, feeling sorry for themselves is easier than moving forward. For these people, the hope of ever reaching the same level of success or fulfillment is blocked by the past. For others, memories can be dark shadows that weigh down your self-confidence and make it difficult to push through.
A bit about me
I get it. Like you, I’ve struggled and I’ve overcome. One of my lowest moments in my life was when my parents decided to divorce after many years of turbulence in our family when I was younger. When this happened, everything changed financially for us. We were in debt, we had to sell our house, everything inside of it — including my bedroom furniture — and at 16, I was juggling three jobs, school, orchestra, swimming, and taking care of my younger brothers. I ended up having to decide to give up swimming to work enough to pay for my music lessons. I remember feeling extremely depressed. I didn’t want to do the normal high school social activities or be around people.
I gathered the strength internally that I was not going to be stuck in this place forever. Even in my darkest day, I decided to wake up each morning with a vision that I would get through it and have a successful future. Every day I told myself I am going to be successful one day. It truly saved me by repeating this to myself everyday when I woke up and before I went to bed. I’ll never forget the first day I walked onto the college campus. I didn’t know how I was going to do it financially, but I knew I’d find a way. I found myself overlooking the stadium and taking a deep breath —knowing I was starting my journey to a better future.
In life, in relationships, and in business, we might try to make excuses for ourselves not being where we want or need to be. We often take shortcuts, or wallow in the past as a reason to not move forward or make changes. Instead of getting hung up on the past, here’s what we can do today to make tomorrow a bigger step in the right direction.
- Listen. As I said, it’s important to understand that you’re not alone in having a past. It’s a human condition. Everyone struggles, everyone has a story, and everyone is either going through something difficult right now, or they’re recovering. Listen to the stories of your friends, and support them. Empathize. Shine some light on the hard topics, and put your story into perspective. Let the stories of famous people who have overcome tough times to get where they are inspire you — think Oprah, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and many more
Make a plan. Once you’ve reframed your past, it’s time to let it go, and envision what you want in your life. Imagine what that may look like and feel like for you. Review yourself. What are three things you can do this week to bring you closer to your goals? Create a support system, a network, or ask an accountability partner to keep you in check. With the path carved, it’s time to start. But remember, it’s a journey. There will be times of greatness and times fraught with obstacles. Remain steadfast in your vision.
- Use what you learned. Since we don’t get a time machine or a “re-do” in life, the past can only serve to inform our future. Make a decision to live every day knowing that your past has only made you stronger, wiser, and provided you opportunities you may have never had. Do I wish some things hadn’t have happened in my life? Of course. We’d all rather not experience the unpleasant stuff. However, I do believe what I went through helped me persevere through the tough times in life and in my career as well. Find a way to turn your negative feelings into positive actions. Redirect yourself when you need to take yourself out of a rabbit hole of emotions, and make the most of the present.
Robert Herjavec said it best. “Tough times never last, but tough people always do.”
How did you stay tough during a tough time? How have you turned a negative experience into a positive outcome? What keeps you moving forward? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment, or visit me here.