Whenever I think about my past I feel like there’s an old movie reel in my head. When I’m feeling down or when I doubt my ability to face up to a challenge, I can hear it click on. It starts replaying all my failures, the hurtful words other people have said, the stupid things I’ve done, and all the missed opportunities I’ve had. It’s like watching a movie of the worst parts of my life. But I also try to remember the good times: times at the beach, traveling the country, spending fun summers with my grandmother, and hanging out with my friends. I have some amazing memories.

What about you? What’s your life story? I’m sure you’ve had good times and bad times, too. There have been times you were happy to be alive and some days you’d like to forget altogether. There’s nothing wrong with that—it’s part of the human experience. The problem is allowing your past to determine your present and your future.

Your past is your history. You can’t go back and change things, no matter how much you wish you could. You can’t always be re-living the great times, either. It just doesn’t work that way. What you can do is change how you think about it. You can accept life for what it was in that moment but realize you have to live in the present. You don’t have to let the past determine who you are right now. You can reinvent yourself any time you’re ready.

People live in the past for different reasons. An acquaintance told me about a friend of his who wears his high school letter jacket even though he’s in his thirties. For him, high school was his peak—the highlight of his life—and he’s trying to go back. What about you? Are you still wearing your version of a letter jacket? It’s one thing to reminiscence; it’s something completely differently to re-live past experiences, over and over.

Some people have a bad habit of holding grudges. For me, every night the slate gets wiped clean, and another day begins. It’s up to you to decide what you’re going to do with today. Are you going to live in the past or are you going to live in the present? Will you let your past be your future, or will you decide to change your life’s course? You can’t be positive about the present and future while focused on the past. Let go. Enjoy what you have today and what you will have tomorrow. Focus on your dreams and forget about the movie reel playing the collection of the worst of your life. Surround yourself with eagles who encourage you to live the life you’ve imagined. Believe in yourself and let others have faith in you.

I was never considered the best and brightest student. I was just a B-C kind of guy. I had to take the college entrance exam three times to get in. I even had one high school teacher tell me I’d never amount to much. But I wasn’t going to let that hold me down. I’ve moved on with my life. I’m not going to let my past be an anchor. I use it as a ladder to climb up. I believe everything happens for a reason. Right now, I could still be whining about the loss of my company and the abrupt detours in my life. THAT would be a miserable life! You have a past, right? Things you’d love to change?

Things you’ve done or things other people have done to you? You can’t change it. The issue is your attitude about what happened. How do you let it affect you now? Whatever memories or experiences there are, you have to make peace with them. If you won your high school championship, be proud of the fact—and move on with the rest of your life. If you’ve lived through a tragedy, you don’t have to let it define you—it can simply be something you experienced. You must learn to move on.

Moving on includes getting over what you and what other people have done to you in your past. We all love to receive a compliment, but what sticks with us are the hurtful words people have said over the years. I may receive a hundred compliments, but they’re all going to be drowned out by the one criticism.

You can’t let other people’s opinions of you keep you down. You get to choose your own life, regardless of what happened in the past and what others think of you. You can move on with your life, even if others don’t believe you have or you can.

You don’t have to bury your past—you just need to come to peace with it. When you speak about an experience, you can talk about the good that came out of it and how it helped you become who you are today.

Write down the experiences in your life you haven’t gotten over yet. Decide what you need to do to come to peace with them. If it’s counseling, get it. If you need to apologize, do it! You can’t fully live until you’ve come to peace with your past.

“Remember that it is up to you to choose everyday to Get off Your Attitude and to create a positive lifestyle for yourself and others.” Ryan C. Lowe

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