Posted by: coachingparents | February 28, 2009

VICTIMS OF THE PAST OR CREATORS OF THE FUTURE?


By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.

Most of us live from memory.  What we learned in the past is how we
habitually function today.  Only after much focused attention and
repeated effort (practice) did we learn to walk.  As children, we
observed others walking upright.  Then, from memory of those
observations, we practiced long and hard to duplicate that behavior in
our lives.  As adults, we walk without consciously thinking about it. 
We do so from what are now unconscious memories.  Walking has become a
part of our lifestyle.  What was once only a visual experience has
become a valuable part of today’s activity.

We speak and understand language because of a mental habit of
attributing meaning to certain sequences of heard sound patterns. 
Indeed, most of our current lifestyle is a result of habits created
from conscious or unconscious memories of past events.  Our lifestyles
often are based only upon behavior learned in the past.

Sometimes our history is filled with traumatic events, painful
experiences, or inaccurate and useless observations.  When we build a
lifestyle upon memory of such events, we generate a lifestyle which
usually re-creates those events, thereby allowing us the opportunity
to handle them differently.  However, we rarely handle the recurrence
of past events any better than we did before, unless we have learned
new habits and skills in the meantime.  Therefore, many of us continue
to be prisoners and victims of our past.  We continue to think, feel,
and behave today in ways which reinforce those habits reflecting our
earlier experiences.

While in school, if a child is beaten up by another, memory of that
event will lead him to behave in ways designed to avoid school.  The
memory of the beating will be used to create a present situation.  The
memory is projected onto an imagined future and he behaves in ways
designed to avoid an anticipated repetition of the beating. 
Unfortunately, avoidance behavior of school creates a school-less
future and that may be creating a future for him more painful than the
remembered beating. He becomes a victim of the remembered trauma and
his life becomes less than he might have otherwise desired.

As far as we know, we humans are the only creatures on the planet
who can modify their current behavior based upon an imagined future. 
If we imagine graduating from school, we may change our
school-avoidance behavior and engage in those thoughts, feelings and
behaviors which increase the likelihood we will graduate, thereby
fulfilling our dreams of school graduation.

Fortunately, we can choose our dreams, the images we create in our
minds.  That is why having positive dreams and visions of a desired
future are so important.  Albert Einstein was considered “retarded”
because he was regularly day-dreaming.  His daily thoughts, feelings
and behavior reflected a lifestyle greatly influenced by his dreams.

The best way to create a joy-filled lifestyle today, is to create a
clear image (dream) or vision of what you want your life to be like in
the future.  Regularly focus your attention on that desired outcome. 
Then select those memories best suited to guide your actions toward
making your dream become manifest in your life.  Author and business
consultant, Stephen Covey, writes “Live from your imagination, not
from your memory.”

Choose to live your life based upon your dreams.  Select and use
only those memories that support the creation of your imagined future.
Keep your visions in the forefront of your mind.  Then recall only
those habits, learned in the past, which support the manifestation of
your dreams.

Like the child learning how to walk, choose the pictures in your
mind of anything you wish to have in your life.  Then engage in those
actions, old or new, which are supportive of making those dreams come
true.  Remain focused on your desired outcome and develop, through
practice, those habits that best reflect the fulfillment of those
dreams.  You thereby become the dreamer, designer, engineer, and
creator of your own desired future.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Dr. Thomas is a licensed psychologist, author, speaker, and life
coach.  He serves on the faculty of the International University of
Professional Studies. He recently co-authored (with Patrick Williams)
the book: “Total Life Coaching: 50+ Life Lessons, Skills and
Techniques for Enhancing Your Practice…and Your Life!” (W.W. Norton
2005)

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