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Why You Need to Break Free From the Perils of Trying to Repeat the Past

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Why You Need to Break Free From the Perils of Trying to Repeat the Past

Summertime, as marked by kids out of school and lazing the days away, ends in Australia this week. It’s back to school in a couple of days, which means I’m back to my routine too. To mark the end of the season, our family went to the beach for a couple of weeks. Honestly, it’s one of our favorite places on the planet.

For the last seven years, we’ve gone to the same region for a beach break over the school holidays. We’ve even locked in on a house that we book twelve months in advance to ensure we can return on the dates we want. We know the restaurants, tourist sites, and beaches and have treasured places that we can’t wait to visit year after year.

This time, I grumped along for a good part of the beginning of the holiday and wondered why. Finally, it hit me – we were trying to repeat the past.

It started on our second night when we went to our favorite restaurant on the beach, and the service was spotty and food both expensive and mediocre.

Then it happened almost everywhere we went. Shops, restaurants, and locations that were unbelievable in the past no longer matched our memories.

Do you know what else didn’t match memories? Our kids. We started going there when they were in primary school. Now in high school, they’d rather Snapchat and watch Twitch than explore with Mom and Dad. I think that’s the most significant change I wasn’t ready to have smash me in the face. Our children are edging towards adulthood rapidly, and we, the parents, are no longer the only ones in charge of the show.

What Happens When You Try to Repeat the Past?

It’s funny, an old friend of mine posted a picture of her and her husband holding their teenage daughters as they did in a photo from a decade before. In the original photo, they are holding their young children on their hips. In the recent one, it’s comical as four people virtually the same size cling on to each other just long enough to get the snap. It was the perfect reminder that despite reenactments, you can’t turn back time.

I admit part of me was sad it wasn’t the same this summer at the beach. Then I remembered I’m not the same either. Between this year and last, I had countless experiences that changed who I am in ways both colossal and minuscule and the entire range in between. Each of those shifts has also changed the way I see and experience the world.

It’s also true for you in both life and work.

There are perils when we try to repeat the past.

Trusty formulas stop having the same impact. 

Stagnation.  

Loss of creativity.  

Minimal drive.  

Phone it in.  

Disappointment. 

Frustration. 

You know how to get out of the rut of putting all of your eggs in a basket from the past? It’s not luck or chance. Change takes intention, followed by action.

When something’s working, of course, you want to repeat the past. It was great! Spectacular even. Alternatively, maybe what you crave is a do-over. The problem is that it’s not the same. Nothing is exactly as it once was. Instead of lamenting and wishing and holding on with desperation, celebrate. Knowledge brings freedom and acceptance too.

Break Free from Romanticizing the Perfection the Past

Recently, my favorite coffee stopped tasting as lovely. It didn’t give me the start to my day that it once did, and I didn’t enjoy it as much. I could have stuck with it, assumed I had a bad batch, or tried something new. It doesn’t mean then old is over and done either. What I discovered was that mixing it up brought a freshness to my old tried and true and an appreciation for the new.

Here’s a challenge for you – take a look at your go-tos. Maybe it’s where you go, who you’re with, or perhaps it’s how you engage. Now pick something to shift. It doesn’t have to be painful or huge.

During our beach holiday, as a family and individuals, we started to shake off the handcuffs of the past.

“Let’s find somewhere new.”

“How about we head to the area but walk around to see what catches our eye?”

“I love that too, but let’s skip it this year.”

“You don’t want to come? Ok. We’ll be back later.”

Where do you need to release the hold of the past in your life and work? What’s making you miserable because it’s not the same as it ever was?  

I’m reminded of the song “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads. David Byrne is quoted as saying:

“We operate half-awake or on autopilot and end up, whatever, with a house and family and job and everything else, and we haven’t really stopped to ask ourselves, ‘How did I get here?’’

By trying to repeat the past, it is living on autopilot. It’s returning again and again, to what you know, instead of embracing and creating what can be.

Related: What One Word Do You Need to Embrace in the Year Ahead?

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