If You Don't Let Go of the Past, How Can You Seize the Future?

If You Don't Let Go of the Past, How Can You Seize the Future?
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 28 July, 2022

How many times have we clung to memories, to images of yesterday, to people from the past, without noticing that in order to live our present and seize our future, it is necessary to make space in our life and set aside the feelings and the nostalgia that certain memories evoke in us.

There are many people who live anchored to a past that no longer exists, and that paralysis stops them from living their reality, enjoying their present, and thinking about their future. Living in the past hinders their goals and dreams and distances them from other people in their lives.

“If it is not in your hands to change a situation that is causing you pain, you can always choose the attitude with which you face that suffering.”

– Viktor Frankl-

3 steps for letting go of the past

There are many ways to let go and break away from the past, to push aside the bad memories and embrace the famous phrase, “carpe diem,” so that you may live in the moment, the here and now. Have you ever stopped to think about the beautiful, happy moments that you experience each and every day?

A conversation with a friend, a smile with your partner, a hug from your child. But it is not enough to think about these things: experience them when they are happening, do not be distracted! Put your phone away, turn off the television, and listen to the sounds of the present moment. Enjoy it with your five senses.

“If the present tries to sit in judgment on the past, it will lose the future.”

-Winston Churchill-

Woman's Hair Becomes Crows

But in order to enjoy the present and see our future, it is necessary to let go of the past that we are clinging to, often senselessly. Let it go, put it away, and keep living. It is your life that is waiting to be lived. Below, we offer you three simple steps for letting go of the past:

1. Accept

The past cannot be changed, but the present and the future can. Therefore, accept what has happened and free yourself from the guilt that you carry on your shoulders and which does not allow you to see the future nor feel the present. Acceptance is fundamental for confronting the problems that lie before you.

2. Learn

A lesson can be drawn from every past event. We already know what we must not do again, what we must avoid doing. If we make the same mistake as we did in the past, it is no longer a mistake; it is a choice. If you can choose, do you prefer to go on chained to your memories or to squeeze every second possible out of this moment?

3. Forgive

We often do not manage to forgive a person who has done us harm, a friend who has betrayed us, but with time, the grudge generally fades away and becomes weaker, which is why forgiving is a form of advancing that peace with ourselves and with others. Truly forgive others, without falseness, and forgive yourself as well. Only in this way will you free yourself from the chains that are tying you to a past that you cannot change.

Girl and Dandelion

Seize the future

Let yourself dream, take a breath and think about how you want your life to be in the future and do everything possible and some things that are impossible so that your dreams may become reality. Define a goal and all the steps that you need to take to achieve it. What is the house like that you want to live in? What places do you want to visit? What job do you want to have? What is your ideal partner like?

If you ask yourself all these questions and think that everything depends on luck or other people, you are very wrong, because the only person capable of making your dreams a reality is you. Nobody is going to go looking for you at your house to offer you the job of your dreams, nor is the man or woman that you have already dreamed of going to show up one day on your doorstep, nor are you just going to magically show up in that house on the beach that you have dreamed of.

Go out and seize the future! Once you set your goals, think about all of the steps you need to take to achieve them, set a timeline and plan all the details. Be specific so you can track your progress and correct mistakes. But keep in mind that an objective has to be clear and concise. It has to be measurable and realistic.

“The future has many names: For the weak, it means the unattainable. For the fearful, it means the unknown. For the courageous, it means opportunity.”

-Victor Hugo-

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Carbonell T. Vivir el “aquí y ahora”, pasa por transformarte. Sophia 2009;(6): 149-165

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.