The danger of living in the past

by Molly Cantrell-Kraig on September 23, 2011

What do sad people have in common? It seems they have all built a shrine to the past and often go there and do a strange Wail and Worship. What is the beginning of Happiness? It is to stop being so religious like that. -Hafiz

Human behavior fascinates me. It’s probably what attracted me to advertising in the first place (my “real” job before I established Women With Drive Foundation). Divining and then driving behavior is a never-ending, evolving symbiotic relationship. Whether advertising is arbiter or mirror of human behavior could be the topic of a great conversation over coffee (IMO, it’s both, BTW).

One of the most puzzling, yet common behaviors is the human habit of living in the past. I’m as guilty as anyone of owning my personal plot in the Land of What Was or What May Never Be, even though I KNOW that it’s not productive and that’s it’s holding me back.

Acceptance of where you are moves you forward!

However, if we are to live full, productive lives of independence, we need to move past our past. Look at the areas where your life has perceived lack. Then ask yourself, “What is it about my past that keeps me tethered? What keeps me from moving forward in this area?”

A really powerful example of our own power to keep us back (or to propel us forward) can be found in the speculative fiction TV series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Of the Star Trek franchise, my favorite is ST: The Next Generation, despite the charms of Kirk and Tribbles from the original series. I never made it past the pilot of DS9, but its message has stuck with me for quite a few years, so there’s their immortality. While setting up the space station, the crew encounters a wormhole, and Captain Benjamin Sisko interacts with Beings, referred to as Prophets, who exist within it. Repeatedly, throughout the episode, Sisko (accompanied by a Prophet) is brought to the site of his wife’s death aboard a Starfleet vessel.

Sisko: [on the image of his dead wife on the Saratoga] I don’t know if you can understand. I see her like this, every time I close my eyes. In the darkness, in the blink of an eye, I see her… like this.

Prophet: None of your past experiences helped prepare you for this consequence.

Sisko: …And I have never figured out how to live without her.

Prophet: So, you choose to exist here. [Sisko nods]

Prophet: It is not linear.

Sisko: [sobs] No. It’s not linear. - “The Emissary” DS9

At some point in the episode, Sisko, distraught and maddened by the obvious torture inflicted by these [apparently] sadistic Beings, asks them why they insist upon bringing him back to this vision. To which they respond, “We are driven here on your power – your memories.” (paraphrase – PLEASE don’t pick nits fanfolk)

When he realizes his power to acknowledge his part in thwarting/changing his own life path’s evolution, he is able to move forward into figurative and literal new frontiers.

We are always getting ready to live but never living.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a derivation on revisiting the past. This is the “Putter-offer Personality.” Forever and endlessly preparing for his life, this person never actually lives it. These folks also set things aside, driven by some artificial barrier or condition (ie. “I’ll pursue painting when my kids are grown,” “I’ll buy that boat when I’m retired.” etc.). I am not advocating wholesale abandonment of obligations, but if you want to paint, PAINT. You don’t need a studio, a $5,000 easel, zillions of tubes of paint and a bushel of brushes. You don’t even need a smock.

The trick is to identify what it is that makes you LIVE and to seek out the closest manifestation of that reality commiserate with your scale – where you are. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Theodore Roosevelt’s quote that says ‘do what you can with what you have where you are.” Begin where you are, but begin.

Rejoice in the things that are present; all else is beyond thee.  ~Montaigne

There’s a modern-day quote that makes references to the women on the Titantic who waved off the dessert cart. This quote by Montaigne is another way of speaking this same truth. Again, I am not advocating wholesale hedonism. However, stop sleepwalking through your life. Please. That cup of coffee that you bolted down en route to your job? Did you taste it? Did you notice that tenacious, vibrantly green flower erupting from the crack in the sidewalk as you scurried to your next appointment?

Rejoice in your life. It’s your life, and if you don’t feel like rejoicing about it, now is the time to take steps to make a life worth celebration. I’ll help you start: What was your favorite thing about today?

Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive Foundation) or “Like” us on facebook.


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