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Tips: Using Your Past: An Opportunity for Learning and for Growth
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, April 2008

Maturity, experience, and perspective all contribute to our ability to move through life as a learning experience. Revisiting the past can be a boost to one's happiness and well being. You may have heard "forget the past," "it's over," "move on" from well meaning friends. Their advice is not all bad. Dwelling on the past can be unproductive and unhealthy.

However, using your past as an opportunity for learning, growth, and self examination can be enormously helpful. It can also contribute to resilience. Try to recall an event and how you handled it. Faced with the same situation today, with your present experience, insight and perspective , imagine how you would process and handle the experience. What would you think, feel, do, or say differently?

Focusing on your past experiences and paying attention to the sources of your personal strength can help you learn what you can do when you need to be resilient in different life situations.

By exploring answers to the following questions about yourself and your reactions to challenging life events, you may discover how you can respond effectively to trials in your life.

Review Stressful Events - What types of events were the most stressful for you? Typically, how have you been affected by those life events?

Recall Helpful People - Is it helpful to recall important people in your life when you feel distressed? Whom have you found it helpful to reach out to for support when facing and working through a traumatic or taxing experience?

Re-examine The Lessons Learned - What have you learned about yourself, your moods, and your interactions with others during these particularly challenging times? Has it been helpful for you to assist someone else going through a similar experience?

Consider What Worked - If you have been able to overcome obstacles, how do you do it? Are these strategies healthy and helpful to you today?

Develop Hope - In the past, what has helped make you feel optimistic about the future? What do you need to do today to develop hope for lies ahead?

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