We all have those moments in our lives that we aren’t proud of, those moments that we don’t talk about because it still opens up that deep pit of heaviness in our chests. Some people have big moments that are arguably “really bad” but for many of us, it is those little moments that we look back at with regret or shame. These may be a harsh word spoken to a loved one before they die, not showing up for someone the way you wanted to, talking about someone only to find out they heard about it and were hurt. And then there are those other, less personal moments; setting out to hit a goal and missing it, or worse yet, giving up on it before really trying, getting into debt, missing a promotion, eating or drinking too much when you promised yourself you weren’t going to do that anymore.
In hindsight, the right decision seems obvious, the goal seems attainable, and the shame seems merited.
But what if none of it mattered? Stop for a minute and think about that.
What if none of it mattered? What if the worst thing you ever did doesn’t matter today?
What if you could let go of that lump in your throat once and for all?
Now I know those with a strong moral compass are uncomfortable with this statement. I resisted the thought myself at first. I’m certainly not suggesting that we have no responsibility for our past actions, we are always 100% responsible for our own actions (which in the long run is good news, not bad news).
But what if our past had absolutely no bearing
on what we can or can’t do today?
What if we stopped using the past against ourselves, stopped looking for evidence of why things can’t work, why we don’t deserve it, or why we aren’t strong enough to accomplish it this time?
I’ll tell you what happens if we stop using the past against ourselves, we let go of self-disappointment and self-imposed limits and open the door wide to possibility.
Maybe you don’t think you’re holding yesterday against yourself. Let’s do a quick activity to see where you stand, not for judgement but to help you actually move forward with your dreams.
Tell me all the reasons why you haven’t achieved all your goals, why you haven’t lost weight, run the marathon, or reorganized your pantry. Why you haven’t asked for the raise, said no to attending something you don’t want to go to, or actually planned your food for the week.
Not having the time yesterday means nothing.
Always saying yes to things in the past means nothing.
Not knowing better before means nothing.
Never advocating for a raise in the past means nothing.
Eating the candy bar at lunch doesn’t have anything at all to do with eating a healthy dinner.
We get a do-over EVERY SINGLE DAY.
The past only matters if we use it to bolster ourselves up, if we use it to move forward. We can’t punish ourselves into growth and accomplishment. But we forget about those things that we did “right.” We spin about the harsh words we used instead of thinking of all the times we show up with compassion. Compassion breeds compassion. Shame breeds nothing good.
So what do you do the next time you find yourself saying,”I never…” or “I always”. Using these
words as the prefix to a sentence is the first indication that self-judgement is to follow, they should set off warning bells in your head. Honestly, I would probably be all for self-judgement if it got us anywhere. I could be a strong candidate for a Rhodes scholarship in self-judgement if they were awarded for this, but I know from personal experience it is ALWAYS counterproductive.
So back to what you do when you find yourself saying, “I never” or “I always”?
You realize that this type of all-or-nothing thinking is a sneaky form of perfectionism and perfectionism is a sneaky way to never take action, to never risk failure. Figuring it out can be messy. It's totally fine.
You realize that yesterday is irrelevant. Today is like a volcanic island, it was built on yesterday’s events but all those are now all underwater and you are left with just today. Why would you try to live underwater when the island holds such promise?
Today you have today’s body and today’s thoughts.
You can have new thoughts, new skills, new strengths, and maybe even new limitations. What can today’s body and mind do if pressured, challenged, or motivated?
What would you do today if everything thus far prepared you for ultimate success? Even the past shortcomings, opt outs, mess ups, and worst things you ever did.
You are ready for today.
Don’t use yesterday to talk yourself out of it.
Are these ideas intriguing to you? Are they poking holes in your belief that things can't actually be better? Come on over to Nursing Beyond the Job to find out how to take the next steps toward your own success.