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Alexander has been contributing for THS for over a year! While he attained a major in communications at SFU, he also recieved a minor in Psychology. Despite those accomplishments, Alex has also never had a full cup of coffee (crazy right?!). Alex is a lifelong sports fan and will defend his Seattle Seahawks to the death, especially if faced against a 49er fan. While Alex's long-term goal is to become a marriage counsellor, he also has a strong passion towards writing that he looks forward to exploring.

Utilizing Your Past Experiences to Move Forward

{Image Credit: iStock}

When you think about what your future looks like, it can only be natural to find yourself thinking about some of your past experiences. And if you are looking to make changes in your life to grow as a person, looking to your past can be one of the best things that you can do.

But an undeniable fact is that you are unable to change your past experiences, which also means you need to be careful in how you utilize past experiences.

In regards to what are some of your tougher moments, by learning how to change your perception of the past and care for your health, you are gaining the tools necessary to conquer future challenges with confidence. Not to mention, coming away with the knowledge that you are less likely to make the same mistakes in the future because you took the time needed to reflect and grow from your errors.

Transforming past challenges into positives 

Lifestyle and Leadership Coach, Tris Thorp talks openly about the importance of perception in regards to past experiences and challenges, highlighting that if you look at your past experiences with a negative framework, such as thinking about past problems as moments of ‘failure’, it is going to make the future all the tougher to handle. Not only will you be mentally beaten down, but you may find yourself falling into destructive patterns if you are unable to properly reflect and grow from your past experiences.

One of the best ways to turn your past challenges and difficulties into moments of growth is to look at the experiences in regards to what lessons you have learned from it. In order to do this, it is integral that you are able to look at your past choices without coming at them from a place of judgment. And in that way, you also find it impossible to ever fail as an individual, you are just attaining more life experiences. When you start to face new challenges in your current day, finding ways to look at them as learning opportunities will also help minimize your overall level of frustrations and make the reflection process all the easier.

How your past has influenced your future?

One of the best ways to gain acceptance of your past experiences is to look at them with the framework of what your future looks like. You might not have gotten the dream school that you had applied for, but that experience has set you upon an entirely different path in life. And while it is impossible to know what “path” in life was the correct one, the correct way to look at the situation is by remembering the importance of being grateful for the life that you do get to lead.

If you are confident in your future and are happy with who you are as a person, it also comes with the importance of accepting your past. All of your experiences both positive and negative have led to you being the person that you are today. As you think about some of your favorite characteristics about yourself, such as your work ethic, you can also find value in thinking about past experiences in which that quality was paramount to your level of success and use that to be even more confident moving forward. When looking at past jobs that you have not been offered (or been fired from) or experiences that you may not have had, being able to reflect and forgive yourself for past potential shortcomings can be monumental in making sure you are taking the proper steps forward. As well as help you accept the life that you have been fortunate enough to lead.

Getting help with past trauma 

If you find yourself struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of some of your experiences it is important to remember that there are tools and resources to help, like Anxiety Canada. This may be especially paramount if your past experiences have left you feeling negative emotions, such as guilt. When looking at your past traumatic experience, it may also be helpful to remember that nobody is able to predict the future. And as a result, you were not able to predict the trauma that you have been forced to undergo. But by using the proper channels, such as a psychiatrist or mental health worker, you can start to work through those difficult emotions in a healthy way. As you continue to grow, also make sure you are taking the time out to treat yourself for the positive mental strides that you have been making and in doing so will further reinforce those good habits.

Study your feelings 

It is not a bad thing to be willing to look within yourself and discern your own emotions and feelings. When you look at your past experiences, you will be able to identify certain emotions or triggers that will better help you predict how you are going to handle similar situations in the future.

Image Credit: GoodFreePhotos

If you were convicted of a crime, reflecting and replaying the situation with genuine remorse, while also remembering to forgive yourself can be influential in helping you gain a deeper sense of perspective. Remember that what may also seem big today, may not even be a problem that you remember in a year. You can also use those potential negative emotions that are associated with difficult situations as ways to set goals for how you want to grow as an individual.

How did it feel when you were late for an interview? Instead of focusing too deeply on that sense of guilt though, as you cannot change that you were late, you can look at the situation, discern your feelings, and realize that the life lesson might be that this negative experience is what helped start the change of becoming a more aware person in regards to your scheduling. Similarly, when was there a moment in your life when you felt proud of yourself? Reflecting on the positive emotions can also be influential in making sure you are moving forward in the right direction.

How to focus more on the positives

It is important to realize that if your brain is constantly running thoughts that are depressive and self-critical that you will form negative patterns in your brain. This was discussed by best-selling author and clinical psychiatrist, Rick Hanson, who talked more about the concept of “negativity bias” and how as a result of this bias, we are also more likely to hold onto negative experiences over positive ones. There are some steps that you can take to help make your positive moments be all the more impactful, which can also have a strong impact on your overall sense of happiness. This includes making sure that you savor your good moments. By taking 10-30 seconds to think about just how happy you are when you feature a positive moment in your day, you are more likely to remember it.

It is also advised to turn these positive moments into positive experiences by later reflecting on the events that unfolded. It can also be very helpful to pair positive experiences and memories with former negative ones. You might have had some really painful relationship experiences in the past, but if you can remember that pain effectively, it will make you all the more grateful for the positive moments that you may be experiencing in your current love life.

Moving forward into 2019

As the year comes to an end and you find yourself reflecting on the past 365 days, it is hopefully able to be done with the knowledge that you have grown a lot as a person in the past year. And even if that growth has come in ways that you have not expected, you have attained more experiences. More importantly, you have also hopefully learned more tools to give you a helpful perspective when you think back on the year. Remember the importance of checking in with yourself. And that when remembering past experiences that you can do it with the knowledge that you are going to continue to move forward.

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