Episode 136: How to let go of the past

Are you using your power?

Or are you deferring it to the past?


Resources & References

Related episodes & posts:
Are you letting past ideas about yourself make your decisions for you?
Another form of self-rejection


“Don’t let the mistakes and disappointments of the past control and direct your future.”

—Zig Ziglar


“Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”



Aili Kuutan: Are you using your power? Or are you deferring it to the past?

Aili Kuutan: You're listening to pure light, where we explore how you can believe in yourself and be happy with who you are. My name is Aili. I'm a coach writer and yoga and meditation teacher. This is episode 136.

Aili Kuutan: In the last couple of episodes. I've been talking about how to create a new future with new possibilities, even if they're beyond what you can see or believe is possible now... and I wanted to talk about how to let go of the past in this episode, because that's also a critical part of creating a new future.

Aili Kuutan: When you say things like, "I haven't succeeded before, so I can't now," "This hasn't happened yet, so it's never going to happen," "I screwed up my diet, so I may as well eat whatever I want," "I can't do things differently because of this thing that happened to me once," or "This is how it's always been done," the underlying assumption is that you don't have the power to change anything, that the future is going to be an extension of the past, and that there's no possibility of creating a different future. When you do that, you're giving power to the past.

Aili Kuutan: You give power to the past when you use it to justify why you should or shouldn't do something, why things are the way they are, the decisions that you're making now, and the assumptions that you're operating by. When you do that, you're basically looking at the past and assigning meaning in a way that feels disempowering because the underlying assumptions are along the lines of: "This is the way that things are," "This is the way that I am," "This is the way that things always will be," which feels kind of like settling to me because it's like you're giving up on what you want.

Aili Kuutan: And because you're effectively saying that what's already happened defines what's possible for you, not just now, but going forward, which means there's no room for expansion. There's no room for growth or evolution, and you're not only giving your power to the past; you're often deferring your power specifically to the failures and mistakes of the past – the things that didn't go well – because you limit what's possible for the future based on that... And this isn't usually a conscious choice. It's more like we look at what's happened or not happened, and the mind comes up with reasons to explain why things are the way that they are, and then those reasons become part of our belief systems that then infuse our decision-making, so we make our decisions based on them. I talked about this in a previous episode called, Another form of self-rejection.

Aili Kuutan: But the bottom line is this: When you do this, you aren't fully using your power. You're deferring your power to the past and to past mistakes and failures. And you're recreating your past self. Because when you say things to yourself that keep the past alive, you're limiting yourself to the same options and possibilities that existed in the past in the future. You're acting as a past version of you and making decisions based on what that past version of you would have done, even though you may not want to be that person anymore, and even though it may actually be painful to stay in that spot and not allow yourself to do something different now.

Aili Kuutan: When you use the past as the basis for your decisions, you keep the past alive. You keep old ideas about who you are, what you want and what you should do alive. You're bringing them into the present, allowing them to influence your decisions, and as a result, using them to build your future.

Aili Kuutan: So when you do that, the future will be the same as the past. And it's almost like you trap yourself in there. To let go of the past, you need to stop operating under the assumption that it has power over you. Like Zig Ziglar said, "Don't let the mistakes and disappointments of the past control and direct your future."

Aili Kuutan: Instead, you can choose to allow your future to be independent of the past. If you were using your power fully, you would realize that you're free to make a new choice right now in this moment, that's based on what you want instead of based on what's happened in the past. The Buddha said, "Each morning, we're born again. What we do today is what matters most." And it isn't just each day that we're reborn. It's really in each moment, what matters is now and what you choose to do in this moment, that's way more important than anything that happened in the past.

Aili Kuutan: I'm going to talk more about that in the next episode, but there's something that I've learned from clearing clutter that I want to share here before we wrap up. So if you've ever tried to get rid of stuff, you may have noticed that a lot of reasons come up to justify keeping it. Reasons like: "I might need it one day," "This person gave it to me," "I paid a lot of money for it," or "It reminds me of a special day or a special occasion or a time of life," that kind of thing. So the, I might need it reason is more focused on the future and justifying keeping something just in case you need it. But a lot of the other reasons that come up are rooted in the past. So if you use that reason based on the past to justify keeping the thing, even though you may not actually use it or need it or even want it now, you keep the past alive.

Aili Kuutan: And just to be clear, I'm not saying that you should always get rid of everything from the past. I'm just saying if your main reason for wanting to keep something is based on your history with the item, it's worth exploring that a bit deeper, because if you didn't have that history with the thing, would you still want to keep it? Would there be a desire to keep it? Would you actually feel excited about having that thing in your future? Or is it more like you feel like you have to keep the item to keep that history alive? One way to get really clear on this is to ask yourself the question: "If I didn't already have this, what would I be willing to do to get it now?" Because that shifts the perspective from, "Oh no, I might lose something I've had in the past that I have this history with," to, "Is this really serving me now and as I move forward?

Aili Kuutan: So to apply this concept beyond just clutter, you can ask yourself: If the past didn't exist, what choice would I feel good about right now? What would make me feel happy or excited? If it's continuing to make the same choice, that's awesome, do that. But if it isn't, if something else is more exciting or expansive, then it's just a matter of giving yourself permission to do something different.

Aili Kuutan: For example, if you're stuck in the loop of using the reason, "I've already blown my diet," to justify making more poor food choices, the future will be an extension of the past. And unless you all of a sudden develop the willpower to follow a perfect diet, however you define that, that loop could go on forever. But if you decide that you're willing to show up differently and make better choices now, you immediately become the person who breaks free from that cycle.

Aili Kuutan: And that's not to say that you're never going to make a poor food choice again, but it does mean that you are capable of moving forward based on what would best serve you in this moment, instead of letting your decisions be influenced and dictated by the past.

Aili Kuutan: When you use the past as justification for your decisions, you keep it alive and you give it your power. When you base your decisions on how you feel and what you want right now, you allow your future to be independent of your past. Every moment is an opportunity to begin again, and to make a new choice. There's more to come on this, so stay tuned.

Aili Kuutan: Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, may you be guided by your light.

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