It happened while I was driving to town listening to the radio.
A story came on about women being allowed to golf at Augusta National for the first time ever. They had just completed a tournament that included the top women golfers from around the world.
(NOTE: For purposes of my thesis, don’t get caught up in the political aspects, or how you feel about women’s sports, or that you hate or love golf.)
The host asked, wasn’t this wonderful for the women’s equality movement? The guest’s response: Yes, it was an amazing event that showed the power and interest in women’s golf. BUT… allowing women on Augusta National should have happened 20 years sooner. So it’s too little too late.
Now every person who has ever been in any kind of relationship with any other human being will immediately recognize the devious dilemma devised with that statement: whichever decision you make, it is the wrong one. If they never let women on the course, they are sexist. If they do let women golf, it is too little too late. Following this logic, no historic wrong can ever be corrected.
That’s when my breakthrough happened. Simply by transferring that argument to anyone’s personal life, the futility of re-litigating the past becomes obvious.
The argument can be made in literally every aspect of every life. Politically in race reparations and college debt forgiveness; financially in stocks you wish you would have invested in 20 years ago; educationally in that C- your math teacher gave you in high school; professionally in the promotion that passed you over; and personally in the mistakes your parents made raising you.
As I played out these scenarios over and over, I realized the answer is simple: you will be so much happier and more successful if you live your life as if it started today. At the very minute you are reading this, in fact.
Discard ALL your past, all the slights, injustices, lost battles, failures, poor grades, bad decisions. Forget them. They didn’t happen.
That may sound like Pollyanna-ish advice we’ve all heard (and ignored) from some dessicated uncle. But the sublime part of “forgetting the past” is that you need to discard all the good stuff, too. Does it really matter that you graduated with honors, made cheerleader, married The Best Spouse In The World, have three advanced degrees, earned a lot of money, or vacationed in Paris? None of that will help you make your next decision or complete your next task or create your next masterpiece. Antithetically, past accomplishments may inure you from taking on new challenges. As they state in those financial services ads, past performance is no guarantee of future success.
Imagine how freeing this will be! You immediately shed all assumptions, handicaps, self-doubt, second guesses, and putdowns, real or imagined. At this instant, you are exactly equal to every other being on the planet, with a new, fresh set of choices laid out for the next few seconds, that everyone else can also access.
It doesn’t matter that yesterday some runners were two laps down, or that some already had one foot over the finish line. Today starts a new race, and you are standing at the line alongside everyone else. See how far you can go today.