As the year draws to a close, I usually take some time to reflect on the year that has passed. And just that thought made me think. Isn’t it interesting that when we think about time, we divide it into the past, present and future, based on where we are currently.
How the present, we usually think of as being what is currently happening, the here and now, is moving. The future, or what is to come, is also fluid. And in both the present and the future there are so many possibilities. We have a multitude of choices we can make now, umpteen choices we could make in the future. But the past? Well that is done and dusted...locked in...and there’s nothing we can do to change it. Or can we?
The past lives in our memories and we all know how unreliable our memories can be. Sometimes we exaggerate our wins, sometimes we understate our losses, or alternatively magnify them out of proportion. But how we view our past is based on our current and future events, so maybe we can change our past by the way we experience the future.
Here are three ways that your future could change your past.
Remember that time that you didn’t get something that you really wanted? That dream job, that girl/guy on the fourth floor that always caught the lift at the same time as you, that new expensive handbag, admission to that exclusive university. Remember too, the disappointment or hurt you felt when you didn’t achieve your goal? For a long time afterwards you spent time stewing over what you could have done differently. You wondered if there was something wrong with you, maybe you should have tried harder, worked longer hours, said something different. Eventually the hurt and disappointment lessen and something else came along that was sooo much better.
Looking back you see the original situation in a completely different way. Instead of being a low point in your life, a time that you wished out had turned out differently, it becomes the time you didn’t get what you wanted...thank goodness! Turns out the thing you wanted the most, was the thing you didn’t need.
So this is one occasion that the past is literally different because of future events.
Imagine finding out that your dad had another child to a woman you and your family were unaware of. Imagine finding out this information at the dinner table one night where you all, including your father, were sitting enjoying the food and conversation through a random Facebook message.
Does this information change the past? Whether you think it should or shouldn’t, it does.
The conflict and turmoil created within the family, not just between the father and his wife but the children and extended family was devastating. For years the family was fragmented. If there hadn’t been a random message, no-one would have known and the family dynamics would have continued to be happy and content.
Maybe this information should not have so much power. The family’s past history and interactions with each other should not change, but with this new information the family could not view the past the same way ever again.
So significant new information can change the past.
So imagine a major event happens in your life... Let’s imagine winning a huge amount of money in the lottery... Now just before your life-changing event you missed a payment on your credit card or forgot to do your tax return ... an event that creates anxiety just thinking about it.
But since you won the big bucks, do you give it much thought? Probably not (although the tax situation I still would). Now you have the resources to pay off the credit card completely not just the minimum payment or pay someone else to prepare and submit your tax return for you. Your internal narrative would change from feeling embarrassed and ashamed to relief and celebration.
When a major event happens, the past can shift, sometimes suddenly, sometimes totally. Situations that caused you anxiety in the past, are far less stressful or relevant to your life now.
The future is a time machine
We often look back and want to change things that happened in our past, whether last decade, last year or yesterday. But the way we remember the past is very much influenced by the actions and thoughts we have in the future.
People say “You can’t change the past” but we know that’s not quite true. You can change the past every day. Think of taking control of the future as a time machine for changing the past.
So as I reflect on the past year, I know that my future 2023 time machine will soften the hard times, magnify the great times, and change up my view on the year that was 2022.
“Your future hasn’t been written yet. No-one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one” ~ Doc Brown, Back-to-the-Future