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I always tell my students that “your history is not your destiny.” While that’s true, I’ve come to realize that your history can be valuable. You can get so much out of the past if you use it properly so that it trains your brain for success.
Rewire your brain with the past
I’m guessing you’ve heard of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change and be trained. They call it “synaptic pruning,” which means that rarely used neuropathies lose their strength and commonly used neuropathies become stronger.
To be successful, you want to amplify neuropathies that lead to success.
This is where the past comes in and why you are often told to “forget the past.” Our natural tendency is to remember the negatives of the past, what we have not achieved or what has not been good for us. This reinforces the pathways through which we begin to doubt ourselves or feel afraid. But we can use the past differently to support more positive neuropathies.
Related: 8 Steps to Stepping Back from the Past You Need to Leave Behind
Use the past to assess your progress
“The way to measure your progress is backwards from where you started, not against your ideal.” — Dan Sullivan.
In The Gap and the Gainwrite authors Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy that when you pursue a goal, the gap is everything between where you are now and where you want to be.
The gain is how far you’ve come, from where you started to where you are now. Most of us focus on the canyon; how far we still have to go. We almost never recognize the gains we’ve made, the distance we’ve traveled, or how much we’ve accomplished.
But by turning down the winnings, you are wasting a great opportunity. “Success breeds success”, and success builds trust, right? When you notice and applaud all the challenges you have successfully overcome, you empower the neuropathic “overcomer.”
When you consistently acknowledge all those great ideas you’ve implemented, or times you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone, your brain begins to see performance as the norm for you. If you ignore your progress and focus on what you haven’t achieved yet, you reinforce that stressful “not there yet” feeling, which doesn’t boost your confidence.
Try it yourself. When you’re having a rough day, look back at where you started on this journey to build your business. Think about how far you’ve come, the obstacles you’ve overcome, and the big and small victories. Give yourself a big high five for all the winnings. How do you feel?
Related: How Studying History Brings Success
Use the past to learn
“An experience only becomes valuable and useful when you have turned it into a profit.” Benjamin P. Hardy
A friend of mine has a client who is a very successful australiabusinessblog.com. Whenever this guy makes a big mistake, he says, “Well, that lesson was cheaper than my college education — and probably more valuable!” He has decided that every experience, especially the rough one, gives him something to learn. So he’s very conscientious about figuring out what that lesson is.
It is not always easy to understand the lesson after a major setback. But if you don’t find that nugget, your brain can jump to wrong conclusions, like thinking you’re not good enough for success. Instead, make a profit by finding the lesson.
You can also do this with past experiences because the person you are now has a different perspective than the person you were then. Try to take an incident in your past that is still an eyesore. What lesson could you draw from that? Has that experience made you stronger, wiser, and more compassionate? Now, when you think of it, remember what you gained from it too.
Use the past to be more effective
“With positive thinking you can do everything better than with negative thinking.” — Zig Ziglar
dr. James Gross, a psychology professor at Stanford, ran a… study to see how our emotions or mood affect what we do. His team studied 60,000 people for an average of 27 days. They found that when people were in a bad mood, they avoided challenges and even slacked off. They tackled the challenging but necessary work when they were in a good mood. In other words, to get a good job done, it helps to be in a good mood. And you can use the past to get there, even if today is bringing you down.
Start by remembering when you felt proud, happy, or especially confident. Maybe it was when you passed your third grade spelling test or got your first job. Maybe it was going to your high school prom or you stumbled across a fantastic waterfall on a hike.
The key is to really get into that experience and feel what you felt then. Give that memory a keyword like “waterfall.” Then find another beautiful memory and relive it. Bring out these great memories and relive them whenever you need a boost. After a while you will find that just pronouncing the keyword can evoke that great feeling.
So, instead of just “moving on” with your past, use it as a tool to build your business. Focus on and celebrate the benefits of your trip. Find the gems of learning from past experiences, especially the “bad” ones, and learn from them. Use your wonderful memories to improve your mood so that you can meet those challenges. It’s true. Your history is not your destiny. But if you use your past properly to condition your brain for success, it can be a valuable ally.