I have a friend I call “If Only Eloise.” Of course, her real name isn’t Eloise, and to be honest with you she is not exactly a friend. My last conversation with Eloise consisted of a litany of laments. It went like this, “If only I had completed my master’s degree, if only I stayed with my second husband, if only…well, you get the picture. Not only is “If Only Eloise” focused on the past, she seems never to conjure up a positive memory.
As I listened to Eloise drone on, I visualized smashing a rear-view mirror into a zillion little pieces, sweeping it up into a container and burying it deep in the earth. Obviously her self-imposed stress was having an unpleasant effect on me. I wanted to stop the chatter from this woman who was intent on wasting precious time by ruminating over the past. When she paused to breathe, I tried a little tough love technique of mine and then suggested she start living in the present.
As Henry David Thoreau advised: “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”
Sometimes we all fall into an unhealthy “if only” pattern. Meditating on your failures not only adds to your stress level, it drains you of energy and diminishes your self esteem. If you find yourself agonizing over the past, I have some suggestions. First, what could you do to remedy the situation? Do you owe someone an apology? If so, graciously and sincerely ask for forgiveness. If that ship has sailed and you have no recourse, begin by forgiving yourself.
Next, absorb the lesson learned. We all make mistakes; however, the real danger is, making the same mistake twice. So, take a step back, analyze what you could have done differently, vow to never repeat that action and move on. In the process, cut yourself some slack, treat yourself kindly and hold yourself in love.
Banish any nasty negative voices in your head
by turning your thoughts to positive endeavors. Make an inventory of your strong points. If you must revisit the past, focus on your wins.
When you feel anxiety regarding past mistakes creep in and spill into the moment, stop and center yourself by taking several slow deep breaths. Pull air deep into your diaphragm. Use this breathing technique to slow down your thoughts and rid your mind of negative intrusions.
Lastly, throw away your rear view mirror. Unless it is attached to your vehicle, it is not a useful tool, only a distraction. Got the picture?
Now proceed to dream big,
live well and make the most of each moment.