How to Let Go of the Past and Focus on the Future

How to Let Go of the Past and Focus on the Future

Rovio Entertainment, a video game developer company, experienced failure after failure before they eventually found success. From when they were founded in 2003 to the launch of Angry Birds in 2009, Rovio only knew failure. Rovio had released 51 new games before they released Angry Birds, all of which failed to become popular (Source: Fast Company). 

However, with each failure, Rovio looked to the future. Instead of giving up, instead of letting their past mistakes consume them, they pushed forward. Because the developers at Rovio looked to the future with faith and hope, their company eventually earned millions. By July 2015, the Angry Birds games had been downloaded more than 3 billion times collectively. (source: Wikipedia). In 2015, they launched Angry Birds 2, which has already generated more than $600 million (Source: PocketGamer).

“1. You must let the pain visit.

2. You must allow it to teach you.

3. You must not allow it to overstay.

(three routes to healing)”

– Ijeoma Umebinyuo, Questions for Ada

Jeffrey Holland said, “The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future.”

We shouldn’t dwell in the past. Instead, we should follow Holland’s advice and look toward the future with faith. 

Remember Lot’s Wife

In the Old Testament, we read the story of Lot and his wife. God warned Lot of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and commanded him to take his family and flee. 

In Genesis 19:15 and 17 it says, “And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. . . . And it came to pass when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.”

While Lot and his family fled to the mountains, Lot’s wife ignored the instructions of the Lord and looked back. In verse 26, it says, “But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” How often do we look back at our mistakes or shortcomings when we should be looking forward?

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Don’t Dwell on the Past

“To be perennially dissatisfied with present circumstances and have only dismal views of the future, and to miss the here and now and tomorrow because we are so trapped in the there and then and yesterday are some of the sins of Lot’s wife,” said Holland. 

As entrepreneurs, we don’t want to waste our time longing for what once was or regretting what we cannot change. By doing so, we are showing a lack of faith and trust in God for the future. This includes a longing for the good times and resenting the bad times.

Dwelling in the past inhibits us from progressing in the present. How can we move forward when we are looking back? C.S. Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Instead of focusing on what was, we should focus on what can be. 

Often, one of the biggest traps we fall into is dwelling on mistakes and constantly kicking ourselves for past failures. We sometimes believe that our failures define us when in reality, it is our response to our challenges that define us. We should learn from our past, move on, and do better. We need to learn to forgive ourselves. 

There is something in many of us that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life—either our mistakes or the mistakes of others,” Holland said. “It is not good. It is not Christian. It stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Christ. To be tied to earlier mistakes is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cease and desist.”

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Airbnb is a great example of a company that learned from their mistakes and moved on. In 2015, Airbnb was accused of racial profiling and discrimination. Instead of ignoring their mistakes, Airbnb addressed the issue in an email from the CEO and took a stronger stance against discrimination with an inclusion campaign (Source: Forbes). They didn’t spend years hiding from or dwelling on what they had done in the past. Instead, they recognized what they did was wrong, took action to right those wrongs, and then focused on a better future. 

With all the emotional and mental energy we put into thinking of yesterday, why not take that energy and put it towards tomorrow? We can follow Airbnb’s example and use our energy to improve and make our future better. 

We can follow these steps:

1. Recognize our mistakes

2. Forgive ourselves and others

3. Learn from our mistakes

4. Take action to right past wrongs

5. Focus our energy on the future

5. Move forward, committed to being better tomorrow

Look to the Future

We should look to the future with faith in God. 

Holland said, “Faith is for the future. Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the ‘high priest of good things to come (Hebrews 9:11).”

When we look to the future, we show God we are putting our trust in him. No matter what may happen, we know God is ultimately in control and knows what is best for us. 

“You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It won’t happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.”

— Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.

Key Takeaways

Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. The past is to be learned from but not lived in.

2. We should remember Lot’s wife. She focused on the past instead of moving forward, and it resulted in her downfall. We want to avoid this same mistake.

3. We can’t go back and change the past, but we can start where we are and change our future. 

4. We should forgive and forget. We should let people repent, let people grow, and believe that people can change and improve, including ourselves. 

5. Faith is for the future. When we have faith in the future, we put our trust in God’s plan for us.

Next Steps

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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