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Are You Addicted to the Past?

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Have you ever spoken to someone and thought, "Do they even know it's 2010?" because they're so stuck in the past.

We all know someone (maybe even YOU) who's not living in 2010. Maybe they're stuck in the old market, old economy, their old decisions, their old career, an old relationship. Maybe it's the person who's stuck in their good ol' school days, and don't even get me started on people with old technology!

As a business and life coach I deal with this "Addiction to one's Past" all the time. I recently took on a new client and asked her to "Tell me about your business, today." Her answer: "In 2005 my business generated x revenue... it was incredible... one of the best years of my life."

On and on she shared with me the story of that year. Including, how it was all taken away from her in '06, '07 and '08 as the market made adjustments and economy faltered. When I asked her "what significant changes and adjustments had you made in your business?" Her answers would shock you. She resisted change and made decisions often too late for the impact to be significant. It became more about "survival" and the constant battle in her head at night about "How did this happen to me?" and "How do I get my business back to 2005?"

Her story is all too familiar.

Do You Know Someone Who's STUCK in the Past?

Here's 6 Signs You Suffer from an Addiction to the Past

1. You Constantly Talk About the Past and the Way Things Used to Be

2. You Resist Change

3. You Continually Fail to Plan for a Better Future

4. You Argue for the Past that Things Used to Be Better

5. You've Allowed Relationships to Become Stale, Uninteresting and Without Passion

6. You have Physically or Mentally Peaked

Understanding--and letting go of--your past is the key to unlocking your future and greatest potential. Many of us live our lives stuck somewhere "back when," fixated on days--or people, or circumstances--gone by. For some it's a love lost, a regrettable choice made; for others, perhaps it's being unable to shake free from a sense of obligation to parents or friends who are holding them back. Maybe it's the lingering shame or guilt of something that happened in the past. Whatever it is, if you're living with the addiction to the past, it is absolutely holding you back from living your very best life.

The past is nothing more than a story we tell ourselves. Continuing to tell that story, verbally or non-verbally, eventually turns it into a reality. What you speak, you breathe life into things.

To some degree, we all suffer from the addiction to the past. Of course, some people are worse than others. If you've been to your high school reunion, you definitely recognized it there, right? You saw the star of your football team, the cool guy everyone wanted to be like that clearly peaked in high school 10, 20 or more years later. He's still walking around like he's the big man on campus.

When you look back on your life, what events do you recall having a tremendous impact on how your future was shaped?

Where in your life do you still feel a negative emotional tug?

Perhaps you long for an ex-lover, have unresolved issues with your family or live with some type of regret for past actions. Whatever it is, my advice is to get it cleaned up.

Cleaning up the past is the simple action of facing it. If you don't, you cannot find joy, won't find peace and won't have true happiness if you are firmly planted in old resentment, challenges, stories about your health, your vitality, your income and past relationships that have gone awry.

Getting over it isn't about forgetting. It is about accepting things for what they are. It's about coming to an understanding that what already happened doesn't need to be a part of your present or future. The only way I know to reconcile the past is to confront all of those areas of resistance in life. Have conversations with loved ones that start out by saying "you need to resolve something" and then have the courage to honestly speak what's on your mind.

You can write a letter or email to that person or can even address a particular situation. Some people choose to send their letters, while others write it just to express their feeling and get their emotions out in the open. If you don't want to send the letter, burn it. Light it on fire and let your negative attachment to the past turn to ash with the paper.

If you are still holding onto the day you were fired, rejected by a lover, did something wrong, had something wrong done to you, were hurt by someone or made a terrible mistake, you're haunted by those memories and are addicted to the past. If you think you're unhappy now, think about your life 10 years from now if you choose to do nothing and remain the same. Now amplify those feelings times 20 years. Knowing what you know about your past, are you willing to let it go and work toward planning a better future?

If your happiness isn't the reason to let go of your past, think about your family, your spouse, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, children and friends. How have the events from your past impacted them? How you behave and act is what your kids will grow up emulating. By continuing to hold onto the past, not only are you destroying your own life, you are crushing the lives of all of those around you. If you choose to go down a path that is stuck in how your life used to be, the people around you will go down that path too.

Here's an exercise to help you zero in on how the past is impacting your life.

Write down a list of every person you feel you've wronged.

Write down a list of every person you own an apology to.

Make a list of everyone you feel has wronged you.

Write down a list of every person you feel you deserve an apology from.

If you want to be free from you past, let all of the people you named in the above exercise know how you feel. More times than not, you may be surprised that they have no idea what you're talking about. What made an indelible impression on you, turned out to be meaningless or of little concern to that other person. They simply had no clue you've been holding on to all of that negative emotion which ultimately weighed you down with self-created images of something that may or may not have happened.

The people who are really suffering and held up by their addiction to the past are those who cannot or choose not to see things for what they are. They only see their breakdowns, mediocrity and failures and relate them to those in the past. The benefit of freeing yourself from the past is that you will finally see things as they really are and not the perception of how you thought it was.

Letting go of your past empowers you to make new and better decisions for your future. There's a great advantage in knowing that.

So what old stories are you holding onto as true that are stopping you from living your best life -- By Design? How are these stories impacting your life? In what ways are they holding you back? And now that you are aware of them, what will you do to let go of those stories so that you can free yourself of those self-imposed traps?

I know, I know, I know... the past is SAFE! That's why people stay there. But really, in today's world and our current economy... we need to shake of the cobwebs from our past and get clear on the future's we want to create. And remember, Do It By design!