Don’t Trip Over What’s Behind You

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I’d be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time someone looked me in the eye and said those words in the last ten years.

While some fear the slightest wobble in the axle that holds their world together, I thrive on change. I am constantly looking for ways not to improve but to move on from what I have already experienced.

My life is a storybook of change. From business lawyer, life coach, and author to Camino guide living in over four different countries, I love to feel my world wobble from time to time. I could go through a long list of small changes, but it wouldn’t make a difference. My jobs and the places I’ve lived speak for themselves.

What is the alternative? Living a static life built on the past experiences that keep us safe. What is safe? When you think about it. What is sure about staying the same? What if we are here to change and grow, again not to improve but to grow and blossom in ways we never thought possible? To challenge ourselves through new hobbies, new friends, new ideas, or routines. Even picking up a book by another author is one way to make a change.

Living a life full of change does not mean you have to lose stability. Security and stability are entirely different concepts. Stability can be achieved by taking care of the basics of life. Safety is staying in your comfort zone and being afraid of everything new.

How do you know if you are playing safe? Being safe is the same as living a balanced life. Boredom, apathy, anxiety, and depression follow.

Don’t be afraid of change, my friends. Don’t be scared to hold on to your hat and sail into the breeze of the unknown, whether you choose a new hobby, book, job, or home. I know one thing for sure. I will not regret living life to the fullest when this life is over.
Earlier this week, I posted a picture on the Kamiwaza Podcast Instagram page of a caterpillar and a butterfly drinking coffee at a table.

The caterpillar says to the butterfly, “You have changed.”

The butterfly replies, “We are meant to.”

We are meant to adapt, change and move on to new things. It doesn’t mean you’re broken, unfocused, or disengaged; it simply means that as we grow and gain more experience, it’s best to learn from those experiences and take new paths.

I had an introductory self-defense session with a brand-new student yesterday. I’ve done countless intros over the past eleven years. Private sessions, semi-private sessions, large groups, you name it, and I’ve done it.

Still, this session was completely different from any previous one. I approached it in another way than I had back and left the session feeling excellent about the connection I made with the student and his level of understanding of what I wanted him to get out of the session.

It’s a fantastic feeling.

But the funny thing is, I’ve had that feeling before—many times.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away from a session and thought, “That was the best formula for a one-hour session…hell yeah…internal self-high five!”.

Looking back now, with the experience I have right now in my life, I wouldn’t feel the same way about those sessions from years past. I would argue that I said some very wrong things. I didn’t say any essential items.

But I could have done better at these meetings. It simply means that I have changed.

I know a lot more now than I did then. I have had countless more hours of experience teaching and working with students than I had then.

Too often, we see change as scary or even sometimes evil. We don’t realize that it’s okay to grow out of old habits or routines and out of past relationships.

In the same breath, we often look back on these past experiences, now through this new lens, and criticize them. Or even look down on them. We fail to recognize that these past experiences that we have now grown past or “over” are the exact reason we are where we are now.

Life is a process. Dare I say an aspiration? (shameless marketing)

We should move forward, and to do that means we must leave things behind and change.

In my industry (self-defense and fitness), if you teach the same things you taught 2+ years ago, it is not a testament to your methods but a direct reflection of your inability to grow.

The fundamental values and concepts may be accurate, but the methods, the signals, the approaches, the exercises, and the experiences should constantly evolve.

The greatest minds are always looking for ways to improve.

Don’t be stagnant because you’re afraid of change or feel pressured by people to stay who you are or worse; you think you’ve already “made it” and can’t improve.

Change your story.

Stop the bullshit.

Learn. Try new things. Fail. Grow up.

In the meantime, appreciate where you’ve been and how it led you to where you are, but keep moving forward.

Be good, train hard, and be safe.
I won’t necessarily go back and camp on the path I’ve already walked, but I might look behind me now and then see how far I’ve come or to help me make decisions for the future.

Therapy and how your past can help you

It’s a delicate balance. Our past contains a wealth of information we can use to get to know ourselves, understand the people in our lives, and help us move forward.

Maybe it’s just the analytical part of my brain (the part that I loved doing close readings in English classes in college), but I can’t do without revisiting my past. I tend to rely on things I’ve already learned or experienced to guide me in my present and future, which could be a mistake.

But right now, I have a tough time seeing it that way. I think I mentioned before that I returned to therapy last month. Every other time I’ve gone to treatment, it was because I had some more significant issue that I needed to process. This time I went back intending to work on some lingering issues. I pay a lot of attention to my past.

I’ve stumbled upon what’s behind me. Over the past nine months or so, my mood has changed. My therapist and I are working out why this has happened, but things that used to make me anxious, sad, scared, etc., make me angry now I am filled with bitterness. And I’m trying to figure out why this transition has happened so I can get better control over my anger.

So I have to live in the past for a while. Or at least an hour every week.

Finding the healthy balance

That being said, like most things, your past life is probably best done in moderation. Many people with mental health problems can probably attest that your past, while a valuable tool in therapy, can be a stumbling block in everyday life.

To extend the metaphor, it’s essential to know your way. When you visit your past, remember the progress you’ve made since then. Leave yourself a breadcrumb trail so you can return to the end where you’re moving forward.

Get to know your surroundings when you’re back in the earlier part of your path. Note potential hazards so you can avoid them. If there’s a painful moment that you don’t feel constructive to confront, acknowledge it as a stumbling block, so you don’t run into it on future visits. You’re aware, but it’s not in your way.

Going around your obstacles and reliving your experiences when you first found them doesn’t have to cause you to stumble. The more familiar you become with these obstacles, the more likely you will navigate them like an expert.

Back to reality

Extensive metaphors aside, don’t be afraid to dwell a little on your past. The key to developing a healthy relationship with these revisits to past events is never losing sight of your present. And many people should only do this with the help of a professional or another type of support system. But overall, I don’t like that our society has labeled going back to its past as taboo, weak, or dangerous. It’s one of those things in life that can go wrong if you don’t do it deliberately, but aren’t most things in life that way?

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