Life expectancy in 1900 was only 47 years and by 2010 the average life expectancy reached nearly 80. Despite nearly doubling in 100 years, most people spend much of that extra time dwelling on things that could or should have been done in the past.
Focusing too much time on the past prevents you from being able to look closer at the present. The past holds anxiety of missed opportunities and failed attempts, which can create misery. The present moment is much more pleasant.
No other living creature has the ability to think about the past or the future. This level of consciousness is the human curse and blessing. You cannot touch the past or show the past in any capacity because it is a figment of your imagination. The present can be touched, smelled, and heard. The past cannot.
Here are a few pointers to forget the past, live in the present moment, and enjoy life far more.
- Take 5 minute breaks. Sometimes work or personal responsibilities take priority and thinking about the past is a necessity. If this is the case, try to create 5 minute breaks to be present to the moment. By taking a small break, you will see a large difference in your demeanor.
- Focus on your breath. The only thing that is voluntary and involuntary is your breath. If you are completely still you will still feel the inhale and exhale necessary to sustain life. This breath is the focal point of the present moment. Try to focus on your breath during the 5 minute breaks or use a longer meditation practice.
- Take time to learn from the past. Sometimes when we don't take adequate time to process or learn from the past, it can continue to haunt us in uncomfortable ways. If something in the past is particularly important, sit down and write it out. How do you feel about it? What were some of the errors that you made and how can you change them in the future? Once the learning process has been completed, it's easier to let go and move on.
- Don't judge past thinking. If you find yourself dwelling about the past, don't judge yourself harshly. It is just an old habit. Recognize the habit, become present and move on. It is a continuous cycle that will never be fully “fixed”. There is nothing to fix, it's just a process and a practice to become more present.
When you cultivate the ability to learn from the past and then move on into the present, life will be a much more enjoyable experience for you.
We speak with people every day who are purchasing life insurance and because it's such an emotional purchase to protect your loved ones, many times our clients do some reflecting. This post is in response to a lot of the conversations we have.