Many people agree that living in the past is unwise. It impedes our ability to fully embrace the present. We hold on to fears, pain, betrayals, and anger. Recollections of “the good old days,” when life was theoretically better, conjure feelings of sadness and loss that easily translate into resentment, unhappiness, and hopelessness. Recalling past mistakes can lead to regret, low self-esteem, and despair. On many levels, living in the past is counterproductive. Or is it? Are there ever benefits to revisiting a prior time? Actually, yes. The past has several perks.
Learning from our mistakes: We know that poor choices can be some of life’s greatest teachers. Recalling times when we made mistakes can reinforce the reasons that we ought not repeat them. Understanding what happened, how it negatively impacted our lives, and how we felt during and afterward enables us to make smarter decisions. In this way, the past becomes a point of reference for future decision-making.
Moving beyond: By revisiting an unfavorable event, we are able to view it from a new perspective. Being older and wiser, we can gain deeper insights into what happened and why, how it impacted us then, and how it will affect us subsequently. What once caused distress can now be healed through a new awareness and cease being a detrimental force in our lives.
Motivated by prior successes: In the past, we have all enjoyed success on various levels. A quick trip down memory lane to a more lucrative time can motivate us out of despair and back onto a winning path. Use past achievements to propel yourself toward greater ones. Success breeds more success.
Fond memories offer comfort: I love old photos. They bring back vivid memories of some of the best times in my life, providing opportunities to relive joy and evoke feelings of happiness once again. Recalling what brought us pleasure can be an incentive to recreate those moments or to embark on new adventures that are exciting and potentially memorable. Fond memories of lost loved ones can be powerful tools for emotional healing. Pain is replaced by warm recollections that keep the love and memory of them alive.
A gauge of progress: It is sometimes difficult to see how far we have come in life. We work hard, but progress seems infinitesimal in comparison with our efforts. By revisiting our starting point, we are able to see precisely how much we have accomplished. This can boost morale, restore hope, increase self-confidence, and motivate us to continue.
While it is evident that revisiting the past has several perks, there are also some caveats. Like an amusement park, it’s nice to visit, but you can’t stay forever. Eventually all visitors must leave. Enjoy the past when it is advantageous, but do not reside there indefinitely. Use it as a means to fully enjoy the present while planning for a remarkable future. In this way, the past will serve you well.