Let go of the Past to Look to the Future

I was watching re-runs of How I Met Your Mother the other day, and there was an episode that came on where the main cast each saw their own doppelgangers. Ted, the protagonist, then went on to talk about how, as time goes by, we each become our own doppelgangers; we change over time, sometimes so much that we resemble our old selves only in skin.

“He’s got a point,” I thought. And as I reflected for a bit on my own life, I realized that I had changed quite a bit as well. As I thought about that, I also thought about all of the things that have come and gone in my life over time.

I thought about tennis. In my youth, I spent 15-hour days at my local tennis club, practicing serves, playing with other members, and training for the next tournament (there was always a “next” tournament I was looking forward to). Lately, I’m lucky if I get out once a year.

I thought about past jobs and companies I’ve worked for, places that inspired and challenged me, and I thought about how they and I both changed as time passed.

And I thought about friendships, and those that have come and gone over the years. I’ve always been lucky enough to have close friends over time, but the names of those people have changed. What hit me hardest out of all of this though wasn’t what changed… it was how my reaction to those changes has itself changed over the years.

Change is the Only Constant

Cards on the table: thinking about all of the things that have changed in my life over the years used to make me pretty sad. I hated thinking about the loss of a friend, or a hobby, or anything else. I even felt like it shouldn’t happen, like there was something I was doing wrong.

Over time though, I noticed that my perspective on this changed a bit.

I realized that, for all that I gave up, I had so many other new things that took its place. The time I used to spend playing tennis was redirected to golf, karate and photography. Old jobs gave way to new opportunities. And friendships that ran their course opened the doors for new ones to take shape.

I’d have none of these new things that give me joy if I weren’t willing to open myself to change, and all the possibilities that come with it.

The way I see things now is like this: enjoy everything you have right now. Recognize that change is normal, and five years down the road, you may not have what you have now. That’s not sad; it’s empowering. Knowing that empowers me to fully appreciate and enjoy the things I have right now.

Wrapping it Up

I guess what I’m trying to say with this story is that it’s ok if things are changing in your own life. That’s going to happen.  Acknowledge it, and know that all it means is you’re taking another step on your own personal journey. The only way you can welcome new and exciting things into your life is by saying bye to some old ones, whether they’re hobbies, jobs, things or friendships. We’ve got to let go of the past, where it makes sense, in order to look to the future.

Notice I’ve been careful not to slap a label on what or when things should expire; that depends entirely on you. Don’t go out of your way to put an expiry on things, and don’t try to make them last forever. Just accept them for what they are. Appreciate them, acknowledge the role they play in shaping you, and if they leave, be grateful for the time you spent.

This shift in perspective has been one of the single most important ingredients in my own personal happiness that I had to share it. I hope, if you’re struggling with change, it helps to give you a different perspective.

Do you have an example of a time something changed in your life, and you came out better for it? If you’re comfortable sharing, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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