We all have a past, and some would say we all carry baggage. We are quick to think of ways to get rid of the baggage that we perceive as holding us back. However, what if we have gotten it all wrong? What if we are trying to get rid of our road map for life? It’s like asking a boat captain to get rid of the sail on his boat in order to lighten the load. Many people get caught up in this cycle of finding ways to improve their life by repressing or replacing the past. However, the only thing that they are doing is chasing a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. It sounds great in the fable but what if we found out that the pot of gold has always been right where we are standing?

We can never change our past; but we can change the relationship that we have with it.

Yes, I said relationship! Because there is no relationship more intimate then the one that we have with our past. This relationship will color the perspective of our future, career, family, friends, and intimate relationships. Everything we do, from the way we communicate to how we trust or show love, is influenced by the relationship that we have with our past. Therefore, the marriage that we can never divorce, and that we will always be deeply committed to, is our past.

Why not rekindle those old flames in our relationship and let those experiences live their true purpose? Doesn’t it just feel better to think that a yucky experience had a meaning behind it, even if we do not know what that meaning is yet? Anyone who has ever achieved greatness, whether it was at business or developing a great relationship, has experienced failure or turmoil.

What separates those who achieve and those that don’t is the way that they view their experience.

Perhaps we can gain perspective on our past by understanding the growth of Chinese bamboo. If you ever buy this type of bamboo, and do not understand its growth process, you may get frustrated with the process. In the first couple years the bamboo only has minimal growth. You may wonder what is wrong with the bamboo or what you are doing wrong. However, after about 4-5 years something astonishing happens; the bamboo can grow up to 60 feet in one year. This growth was possible because throughout those early years the bamboo was creating the rooting system that would support this kind of growth. The same thing happens for us.

Every experience, whether positive or negative, creates the rooting system that gives us the foundation on which to build our greatness.

Often we focus on how to cut out the roots we don’t like without understanding the value that they have. Much like when we happen across a road block in life, occasionally a root will hit a rocky area that it can not grow through. Unlike us, nature accepts these obstacles, simply stops feeding that root, and finds ways to continue to grow around it. The bamboo does not feel the need to remove part of its foundation or pretend it isn’t there. It also doesn’t spend its life cursing the faulty root or creating a victim story out of it. The relationship we choose to have with these rocks and roots in our past will either empower our growth or hold us back.

How do we change the relationship with our past?

First, take a look at the experiences in question by writing them down.

Second, for each of these experiences, make a list of the positive results or experiences that have come from (or could come from) them directly or indirectly.

It can be difficult to see the silver lining, such as understanding how anything good came out of victimization. But, even the worst experiences can lead to healing, growth, and purpose. There is no better feeling than knowing that we can help others through their experience and at the same time find a purpose to our pain. Helping another feel that they are not alone, or perhaps even helping prevent someone else from experiencing the same fate, can give be healing and empowering. Once we can truly see the blessing within our experience, or are open to finding them, our relationship with our past is changed for ever.

I have come to realize that everything that I saw as a curse in my youth has actually served me, and others, in ways that at the time I could never have imagined. Who would have thought that those perceived curses would turn out to be the biggest blessings in my life?

Your past does not make you who you are; your relationship with your past does.

Author's Bio: 

Joeel A. Rivera, M.Ed., Ph.D. (ABD) holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and is currently completing his dissertation for his Ph.D. in Psychology. Joeel’s extensive career as a relationship coach includes certifications in P.R.E.P, a 30-year research-based program for couples, Nurturing Father’s curriculum, and Parenting 21st Century. Joeel is now taking a select number of Life, Relationship, and Entrepreneurship Coaching clients. Contact Joeel at joeel@transformationservices.org