Last month, I shared with you three things shared by those who have freed themselves from their pasts and have found the energy and courage to keep moving forward. This month, I'm sharing the last two!
Let me know what you think—I'd love to connect with you and hear your thoughts.
Last month, we covered these three critical steps:
Learn to love the small steps.
Take responsibility and make amends for the things you've had a part in breaking.
(If you'd like a link to that newsletter in full, contact me and I'll send it to you!)
Let's dive into the last two:
Tell a different story. The famous neurologist Oliver Sacks (if you've ever seen the movie Awakenings, you were watching the story of his groundbreaking work) has observed that it is "narrative truth," rather than "historical truth," that truly shapes our personal identity (Popova, Sacks). So, it isn't so much what happens, but how we see ourselves within those events and the role we played in them (Sills, 86). Were we the victim or the hero? Did we come away telling ourselves that we were to blame? Or someone else was to blame? That we are unworthy of love? That we did the best we knew how to do? That we're a failure?
Whatever the reality of an event, we're always interpreting the meaning, and we always have a choice about how to interpret those events. It's the belief about what happened that becomes the narrative that we tell ourselves about who we are – and that can shape our perspective, our choices, and our progress.
When we can consciously reframe those narratives that are damaging and holding us back into interpretations that speak possibility and transformation, we can clear a space to move forward into a new story. Dr. Sills says, "One powerful strategy for easing the pain of the past is to rewrite key aspects of the story from a more balanced, empathetic perspective. A healthy rewrite makes you less victimized, less devastated, less lost than the one you told yourself at the time of the original injury. It reduces the deep rage, loss, and fear that have been holding you back. "
It's important to note that you're not changing the facts of the narrative; the pain of injury might still be there for you. But a rewrite gives you new eyes through which to see the story (and yourself in it), a way to be more empathetic with yourself and others, and that can help you let go and can shift your gaze from where you've been to where you want to go.
Learn to really notice this moment, right now, right where you are. The breakthrough "discovery" of neuroscience in recent decades—something that mystics from every age have known for millennia—is that mindfulness is likely the number one key to full, joyful living. As a practice, it is a learned skill in which we observe and note, without judgment, the things that are happening and how we're feeling about them.
Mindfulness changes the physiological structure of our brains, and when it becomes habit, it changes every single thing about our lives and the way we live. It grounds us. It helps us to look more calmly and non-judgmentally at what has happened and what is happening. It energizes the prefrontal cortex and helps us make choices with more peace and clarity. It cultivates empathy and gratitude. It reduces stress levels. It fosters connection with ourselves and others. It expands and makes rich the simple things we often take for granted. And here's the real kicker: when you know how to live in this moment, by definition, you can't be living in the past. It's the ultimate momentum-builder.
As Dr. Sills explains, "Nothing—not one single technique or inner evolution—is as powerful an antidote to the past as the capacity to be present in the here and now."
Mindfulness—and, actually, all the secrets to moving forward we've been discussing—boosts the energy and function of our prefrontal cortex, also known as the higher brain. This is the seat of clarity, creativity, and calm decision-making in the brain. The more we flex the "muscles" of the prefrontal cortex, the better we are able to handle the many unexpected sorrows and joys that life throws at us, and the more capacity we have for intentional living that is free from the limiting power of the past and full of all the possibility we contain.
Higher Brain Living® is a technique that can help you in your journey to move beyond the past and start living forward again. I'd love to meet with you and answer your questions. Better yet, try it for yourself: you can get a low-cost 2-Session Package by clicking here.
Resources consulted for this piece:
Mehta, Monica. "Why Our Brains Like Short-Term Goals." Entrepreneur.com, January 3, 2013.