Where You're Going Says More About You Than Where You Came From

Keeping in the past is not productive. The best thing is to take the lessons learned to improve in the present and project yourself into the future.
Where You're Going Says More About You Than Where You Came From
Fátima Servián Franco

Written and verified by the psychologist Fátima Servián Franco.

Last update: 11 July, 2024

We tend to define ourselves by our past and be predictable because of it, but the past doesn’t always say much about who we are. Many of us learn from our past and live better in the present. This may more accurately reflect who we are today. People are not static and unchangeable. Quite the opposite: the process of transformation is a daily struggle.

There can be no transformation without the component of emotion. The emotions we experience are the biggest motors behind our behaviors. Our destiny cannot be changed; otherwise it would not be destiny. But a person can change, because otherwise they would no longer be a person.

The goals we pursue reveal, in large part, who we are. Achieving our goals is not as important as what we become when we’re pursuing them. We are in the present. So what does it matter who we were last week if we know who we are today?

“What has happened has fled away; what you hope for is absent; but the present is yours.”
-Arab proverb-

Only 20% of our brain is in the present moment, it’s in our past

Our brain loves to go from the past to the future and back again without ever stopping in the present, not even to refuel. 40% of the human brain is devoted to conjectures and hypotheses that will never materialize. Another 40% is anchored in situations and conflicts in our past, leaving only 20% to what really matters, who we are in this very moment. The present.

That’s why it is so common to describe ourselves focusing on our past. Some research suggests that the present is an elusive place for the brain, but it can be trained. Having goals and direction makes us more connected with our environment.

Past, present, and future.

The past gives us a lot of information about what we were once like, but the present gives us information about who we are. But, for our brain, it’s much easier to keep information from the past. After all, it has already processed it. Hence why many of us find it difficult to see ourselves as we really are, with that image in our mind that’s so out-of-date with the person we are today.

Slogans like, “the good ol’ days” show us how our brain skews things in the past. The brain reinvents our memories to make them more positive. Memory takes fragments of the present and inserts them into the past so that they fit better into the world we’re in now.

“Simpletons talk of the past, wise men of the present, and fools of the future.”
-Napoleon Bonaparte-

Where we come from is chance, but where we’re going is our choice

We all have a past, and sometimes that past is not the fruit of our choices. As we grow, with the control we have over our lives, we choose and shape the attitudes and ways of life that best suit our tastes and values. Knowing where we’re going implies that we have grown in self-control, judgment and generosity (or at least that we’re in a position to do so).

Walking in the sun.

Each choice has a consequence. If we don’t like our choice and its consequence, instead of clinging to the past in our mind, we must look for a new choice and a new consequence. Is the path we choose always the right one? There are consequences that we can’t know beforehand, but “rightness” lies in our choices.

We can choose to get rid of beliefs that limit us and build other beliefs that make our lives better, more fun, even more lucky. Only ghosts wallow in the past, describing themselves with their already chosen lives, lived and somehow closed. We are what we choose to be today, not what we chose to be before.

“I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want”.
-Mark Twain-

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