The Past Doesn’t Have to Rule the Present

“I can’t believe you went through all of that abuse and came out of it normal.”

This is far and away the most common feedback I get from my book Decoding Your Past. People often apologize to me for their response to what they read in my book. They are shocked at some of the events I have described, almost as if they can’t believe anyone could survive such things. They are equally shocked when I say to them, “I am thankful for the events of my life.”

How can I be thankful for being abused and living through maltreatment as a child? The truth is I have had a rough life—and that is all right. I wouldn’t change anything about my life. I am who I am today because of those events. They shaped me into the person I have become.

I’m obviously not advocating the maltreatment of children. But, the reality is I am a stronger person for having endured those events. They have made me more independent, determined, strong willed, smarter, and caring.
I have been forced to learn to deal with my adversities and treat them as single past events instead of allowing them to consume my current life. I have also been forced to face my fears and not let them control me. To overcome and change your direction, you have to face your fears head on.

These lessons obviously did not come easy for me. I spent years sorting through my troubles and emotions. But I learned something key: We are not defined by the adversities in our lives—we are defined by how we manage them.

We can’t always control what happens to us (especially as children), but we can control our response to those events. In that way, we control the outcome. It’s important to understand we are where we are in life because of what we’ve experienced in the past. Those events can be either good or bad, positive or negative, but we can make them all into strengths if we learn how to respond.

I have watched people destroy themselves because they could not learn how to deal with past adversities. Instead, they turn to alcohol, drugs or self-destructive behavior as a means of coping. This only prolongs the problems. This is why people stay mentally unhealthy for years.

The key to success is managing our adversities properly and not allowing them to control our lives or the paths we choose. Managing them properly means that once we’ve experienced an event, we need to deal with it and move on. We are not dealing with our adversities when we turn to alcohol or drugs. In fact, we are doing the opposite. The alcohol or drugs provide an escape so we don’t have to face our situation. In reality, all we are doing is making the problems worse.

Another delay tactic is to consume ourselves with searching for “answers.” We want to know “why” something happened to us; why a loved one died, why we were abused, why we got cancer, why we got into a car accident, etc. The longer we spend looking for “why,” the longer we put off accepting and dealing with the adversities. The truth is, sometimes there is no why. Bad things happen, unfortunately. We have to stop obsessing over the why. That only delays acceptance and overcoming.

We all have the ability to take control of our lives. We all have the ability to be happy and successful. But we get sidetracked and, before you know it, we have spent years being miserable—with ourselves, in a marriage, at work, or with any other aspect of life. The reality is, you were in the driver’s seat the entire time. You are solely responsible for where you are today. No one else got you to this place in your life. You did it all on your own. Take full responsibility for that. Own it.

People want to blame others for their misfortunes. I have caught myself doing this at times. It’s so much easier to blame our boss, spouse, parents, family, or anyone else for the things that have gone wrong. We don’t want to take responsibility for our outcome. If we have failed at something, we blame someone else. That is the wrong philosophy, though. The only person to blame is you. Sometimes that’s a tough pill to swallow.

The good news is, it’s never too late to change your life. You may have to change your entire life or perhaps only certain aspects. But in the end, there is absolutely no reason not to be happy and successful. The first step is to take responsibility for your own actions and outcome. If you can learn to control your response to life’s events, you will ultimately control the outcome.

We are not perfect. We will make mistakes. I have made many. But we grow most from our mistakes, not our successes. The key is to take responsibility. Assess those mistakes quickly, make the changes needed, and move forward. That’s how we learn and grow. Don’t spend years of your life dwelling on the mistakes you have made in the past. You already made the mistakes. Now the best thing you can do is move on.

You have the ability to accomplish anything you want. If you haven’t yet done what you dream of doing, then perhaps it’s time to change the way you think. We control our own outcomes. We are responsible for what we have become. Learn to take responsibility, deal with your adversities and fears, and control your responses. If you do, you can accomplish anything you want.

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