Inoculation Against Living in The Past

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BY KEISHA JOHNSON

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who on every occasion pivots to the ‘good old days’?  Irrespective of the topic or event, to them nothing in the present seems comparable or worthy of merit, celebration or praise. For them everything was better in some previous time, in some previous place or relationship and they seem mentally stuck there, unable to show-up and appreciate the present.  How often do you leave that person’s presence feeling uplifted, encouraged and energized? Would you say they are living their best life?

A few days ago, I read an inspirational note from Dr. Pat. Francis and it revived an age-old wisdom that was transformational in helping me years ago to gain a perspective on a meaningful life.

It said this, “moreover when God gives someone wealth and possessions and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their work. This is a gift of God. They [such people] seldom reflect on the days of their life because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” The author was King Solomon, renowned as the wisest man to have lived.

The full meaning of the statement eluded me at first. But not its last line, which describes the outlook of and outcome for people who are in essence ‘comfortable in their own skin’ and circumstances or as Dr. Pat Francis surmised in her inspirational piece: “being our best in who we are; doing our best in what we do; and living our best life each day.”

To live this way implies living purposefully with a clear sense of identity and embracing and utilizing our strengths to contribute to humanity. With this mindset, we are able to be and do our best wherever we are in life. As we do, we enjoy a sense of peace and fulfillment in who we are and in what we do and we are immensely gratified. This is the meaning of being ‘occupied with gladness of heart’ because then we find more to celebrate than to lament or criticize. 

This predisposition is akin to what psychologists describe as being present, which they suggest is one of the fundamental keys to preserving our mental wellbeing. It allows us the freedom to enjoy life in the now, to get engaged and contribute to the present. All of which in turn help us feel valued and encouraged to keep on living.

The gift of knowing who you are, of embracing your unique strengths and abilities, of utilizing them to contribute to society and enjoying the contributions that you make, is the gift of being present. And being present is an antidote to depression that inoculates us against being stuck in the past. That’s why people who are present and comfortable in their own skin “seldom reflect on the days of their life.” They are not tethered to the past.

So, when life dishes up disappointments, and it will, let’s do pause to process the impact. Rant, grieve and lament as is necessary, but also consider the lessons to be learned and get the requisite help to realign and get back in the game. Otherwise you risk being stuck at a place as life passes you by and you’ll rob yourself of enjoying a truly meaningful life.

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