Steps to Management Success – Step 82: Don’t Dwell on the Past

Written By Rick Frishman Published April 2nd, 2010


Don’t Dwell on the Past

We’re all carrying emotional baggage—the residual pain, guilt, anger, shame, regret, et cetera, over past mistakes, setbacks, and other painful learning experiences—but it’s better to check that baggage at the office door. It will only weigh you down.

WHAT IT MEANS: Too much living in the past can impede your present. Learn from your mistakes or other difficult life experiences, sure—but then move on. The more emotionally entangled you are with the past, the more it rents space in your head—and that’s space (and mental energy) that can be put to much better use. Being present-focused is a more constructive, productive, and satisfying way to work—and to live.

ACTION PLAN: Realize that you have the capability of changing your thoughts in the blink of an eye. The next time you’re all wrapped up in “woulda, coulda, shoulda,” make an effort to be aware of your “past mode” and mentally shift gears. You can literally tell yourself (aloud, if nobody’s within earshot), “Not now!” or “I will think about this in three hours!” or even “That was then, this is now.” You may not be able to manage all your thoughts, but once you discover that it is at least possible to shift thoughts—and to be more cognizant of them—you will be more in the driver’s seat.

And then, as with any new skill, all you have to do is practice.

EVEN BETTER: There’s an old saying: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

To diffuse the emotional fallout of past setbacks, resentments, and/or disappointments, try to reframe them. Did you learn anything from the experience? Was there any “upside” at all? With the benefit of time and a more dispassionate perspective, some of our most challenging life experiences can be reviewed as some of our life’s most essential lessons.

(Excerpted from: 10 Clowns Don’t Make a Circus. . . and 249 Other Critical Management Success Strategies by Steven Schragis and Rick Frishman)

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