You can’t build a better future until you solve this problem first.
You don’t have a motivation problem. You don’t even need inspiration. And, you definitely don’t have a laziness problem.
No, what you have is a much deeper problem.
You can’t get over the past. From the micro to the macro, you let your past haunt you and dictate the way you live in the present moment.
You think you have a “personality.” No, you have a mental map built from the past.
You think you have an “identity.” No, you have a cobbled together narrative that probably isn’t serving you very well.
How am I making all these accurate assumptions about you? Because you’re a human being. All humans live in shackles and chains built from the past — all of us. Can you escape your past fully? I doubt it.
But, you can do the next best thing.
If you use this phrase over, and over, and over again, you can free up enough mental bandwidth to start building a better future. It’s simple, logical, and obvious, but it works if you fully embrace it.
What’s done is done.
“What’s done is done,” applies to everything from simple procrastination to major life changes, obstacles, setbacks, and anything else from the past that is not useful to you in the present.
I’ve used this “secret weapon” time and time again. Embodying the phrase can snap you out of a funk in an instant or help you heal trauma you’ve held onto for way too long. Say it to yourself as many times as you need to.
I remember a moment that almost crushed me a few years ago. I was living with the mother of my child at her parents’ house rent-free because we couldn’t afford to live on our own.
Slowly but surely, I started to save some money. I’d just started making a bit of money writing too, so things were looking up. I check my bank account one day — almost all of my money is gone. The IRS had garnished my wages because of a debt I owed the state.
I remember being physically ill and shaking. It was one of the worst days of my life. Imagine having to explain to your pregnant partner that you have no money. Imagine feeling the desperation and hopelessness of losing the majority of your money overnight. I felt depleted. All my momentum was gone.
I managed to get some of the money back, but not enough. No matter how many times I played the mental movie in my head where I didn’t lose that money, the reality was never going to change. It was done. I had to deal with it. And deal with it I did. I told myself what’s done is done. Thinking about it provided no upside whatsoever. I gritted my teeth and then I let it go.
Eventually, we recovered. In the long-run, we got back on our feet, I’m successful now, and I don’t feel any emotions about that moment anymore. It’s just a memory.
I’ve been continually working to make that initial shock period shorter whenever I experience a setback. Now, every time something sets me back and I can’t change it, I try to fully embrace the fact that it’s over and done with.
What are you still holding onto that can’t be changed?
If your past put you into a present state you don’t like, what’s done is done. You still have to live your life in the present moment and every ounce of energy spent wishing things were different won’t change a damn thing.
You know that, logically, but of course, self-improvement is about taking the things you logically know and embracing them emotionally at your core. No easy feat. I know.
And it’s not like you’ll permanently cure your thought patterns. To this day, I still look back at things I wish could’ve gone differently, like my marriage — which I’m sure many of you who are divorced can relate to.
What’s done is done, though, and whatever happened happened. I read a book by Dr. David Hawkins called Letting Go. In it, he talked about looking back at tough situations like divorce and instead of placing blame on others or continually stewing about it, just take the attitude that “something unfortunate happened.”
Remove the context and color of blame and resentment from your past altogether. The things that didn’t go your way were nothing more than “unfortunate things that happened.”
You didn’t get what you wanted, not because of some grand conspiracy that you must hold onto forever, but because it just wasn’t in the cards for you at that time.
What’s done is done extends all the way back to your birth.
You didn’t get blessed with the innate intelligence, talent, looks, social skills, or circumstances you think you deserve. What you were equipped with at birth and how you were brought up has already been written. You have to live your life now. No, it’s not fair, but fair doesn’t come into the equation of what’s done is done.
The decisions you made in your past are made. The past has already been written.
Not only that, but it doesn’t have to dictate your future.
Would I like to go back in time and change the fact that I got arrested for selling weed? Maybe. But my checkered past has been a pretty useful device for my writing. And those mistakes I made in the past don’t define who I am now.
I dropped out of college. It’s done. And I still found a successful career without my degree. I’ve been hurt and have hurt others. I’ve made reconciliations where possible. And it’s done. I drew valuable lessons from these situations, too.
See, that’s the thing. You can’t untangle exactly which parts of a negative past were detrimental or beneficial. Having a smoother life in the past can lead to a worse one in the future — ask any trust fund kid.
There are too many variables, arrows of circumstances, and situations for you to ever really know exactly why you are where you are now. It’s impossible to know.
You get a series of present moments and story arcs in your life — seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years — and you have the opportunity to move on from the arcs that no longer serve you…in an instant. Easier said than done, but you can let go of all the past angst and emotional weight right now.
You could have one of the best days of your life, today.
This week could be the week you say “screw it” and start developing the plan, project, or path that changes your life forever.
This could be your watershed moment. This could be the moment where all of that self-improvement advice clicks and you fully step into the world for good.
You can internalize and embrace the notion that everything that has ever happened to you in the past is done.
If you do this, you can start to live your life.