The Danger of Living in the Past
Just as it is painful for many people to look back, some people cannot seem to get out of the past. The past, for them, is better than the present; therefore, they chose to live there instead.
You probably know several people who live in the past. They speak of it often, compare today to yesterday, and have a hard time accepting the fact that the past is never coming again. This can be paralyzing to healthy self-esteem.
At first thought, you may assume that most people who live in the past are older and have retired. This is not the case. Many young people live in the past as well. They are caught up with people and events of which they just can't seem to let go.
It is perfectly fine, even recommended, that you revisit your past to clear up unfinished business and even to remember and bask in the good times, but living there, as a rule, is unhealthy.
Jan loved her job as much as life itself it seemed. She was productive, admired, and had moved through the ranks with impressive speed. She was touted as being “the next CEO.” Everything was working in her favor. She remembers vividly the Wednesday evening that her husband came home and broke the news: “I've been transferred.” Bill was a successful banking executive and his company wanted to make him a regional vice president. After much discussion, Jan and Bill decided that it was a great offer that they could not turn down. Jan knew that she could easily find another job in her field of insurance.
Shortly after they moved, Jan began to look for employment. Finding the right job, or any job for that matter, was much more difficult than she had imagined. After several months, she accepted a position as an entry-level manager in a local insurance office.
“Living in the past is a dull and lonely business; looking back strains the neck muscles, causes you to bump into people not going your way.”
— Edna Ferber
Jan was not passionate about the job, but it offered her the opportunity to be out of the house and on a career track again. Jan saw many problems with the local office and set out to correct them. One day, Jan overheard her coworkers talking about her. “That lady had better wake up and realize that she is just a manager, not the CEO,” one said to the other. “Yeah, I'm so tired of hearing about how they did it back in Oakland.”
Jan was devastated. She began to realize just how much of the past she had brought with her. Here skills and talents were still great, but she had failed to move beyond her past position. She realized that she was still living in her old job and working toward goals that were tied to her past position. She revisited her comments to her current peers and was shocked to remember how many times she had said, “Back in Oakland,” or “We used to do it this way,” or “When I was vice president …”