Hanging on to the past can be a detriment to our futures. Holding on to old ways of thinking and your previous experiences could shut down your potential for growth as well as your ability to recognize new opportunities.
While your past and what you’ve lived through shapes who you are, it shouldn’t dictate your future. Instead, your past can serve as a reminder of your resiliency and give you lessons from which you can learn. The secret to becoming a better lawyer is learning to heal from and let go of your past.
Letting Go and Healing from Your Past
What does it mean to heal from your past? What does “letting go” actually entail? Bear in mind that letting go doesn’t necessarily forgetting about the experiences that made you who you’ve become. What it really means is that you’ve healed from old emotional wounds. If we don’t heal from our emotional pain, we run the risk of suffering from deep emotional wounds any time we encounter similar experiences in the future. You can liken this sentiment to dating. Perhaps you struggled with a particularly nasty breakup in your youth. If you find yourself punishing new significant others because of old, emotional issues from your previous relationship you haven’t healed from your past. This is because you have unresolved emotional attachments to particular situations and experiences.
Past professional experiences could come back to haunt you, too. For example, a new client could remind you of a previous one. A bad experience with a judge could shake your confidence. Or, being passed over for a promotion could leave you feeling bitter and raw about new opportunity. Clinging to old emotional wounds will undoubtedly cause pain and negativity to resurface. These emotions normally resurface when you’re trying to embrace new opportunities. Understanding that hanging on to old wounds, insecurities, and bad experiences could hold you back from your true potential is the first step to healing.
Breaking the Cycle of Projection
When we cannot let go of the past, we project our negative associations onto future experiences. This can be disastrous in both our professional and personal lives. Breaking the cycle of projection is possible with a little work and focus.
Here’s some helpful concepts to help you let go of your past and put an end to unproductive projections:
Awareness is the first step to fostering any kind of change. When you’re aware of your past creeping up to affect your future, you can take a moment to assess your feelings and actions. One trick to fine tune your sense of awareness is to realize that negative feelings and thoughts toward new experiences could be rooted in the pain of your past. When you find yourself feeling negatively in the here and now, take a moment to breathe and assess the underlying issue beneath your emotion. If you’re feeling fear, for example, examine what past experiences are contributing to your fear. Taking a mindful approach to examine your thoughts and emotions can help you break the cycle of projection from your past to your present.
Change comes from allowing yourself to confront your pain and fears from the past. Giving yourself permission to examine your thoughts and emotions to determine which previous experience is influencing your judgment is a powerful tool in letting go of your past. Personal growth requires work and you must give yourself the opportunity to change.
Once you’ve practiced awareness and allowed yourself to process when the past resurfaces in your present, you can take “letting go” a step further by acknowledging how your previous experiences are affecting your thoughts and behavior. If you find that you’re fearful of future opportunity because of self-doubt, for example, you can acknowledge the experiences that made you lack confidence. Take a moment to assess your emotions with compassion. The process of acknowledging why you feel the way you do is powerful and will facilitate letting go of the past so that you can embrace the present with a clean(er) slate.
Each time you feel your past experiences affecting your present is an opportunity to process your emotions and acknowledge why they exist. As you grow and change, you will likely repeat the process of “awareness, allow, and acknowledge” many times over. With each future assessment, however, you’ll find that your negative emotions of the past lose their power over your future.
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