We all have a story of our childhoods to tell. Some of them are tough and some are tougher and rougher than others.
How was your life when you were growing up? Did you have a miserable, rotten childhood too? Or did something tragic happen later in life that is preventing you from finding happiness and success now? If so then you might want to read this post.
On my seminars or in my coaching I hear a lot of stories of how tough people have had it. Usually, but not always, I rudely interrupt people’s stories depending on a number of factors of course. I try and help them break the pattern. Some people use their tragic childhoods or difficult adolescent years (or things that have happened in later life) as part of their story for not achieving.
So if you feel your past is preventing you from unleashing your true potential and achieving what you want, here are 8 things to take on board. I hope they can help you too.
1 The past does equal the future
The great Tony Robbins said that not me. However it is something I firmly believe too. Your past does not have to define who you can become or what you can achieve. But if you choose to let it, it will get in the way of that magnificent person you can become.
Don’t let it control you or shape your future negatively. This might sound simplistic. It is meant too.
2 Stop visiting the past
If your past was unpleasant, then why on earth should you keep visiting it, let alone do it through choice? I know people who “live in their past”. Visiting Number 1 Memory Lane now and again is a great thing to do; but moving there and having it as a permanent address is not. If past experiences are causing you to feel bad then choose not to go there. You control your thinking so change your thoughts to something else.
I almost never look back at mine; well, not the times that could cause me pain.
3 A bad childhood, so what?
Now you may have had some pretty traumatic experiences. I am not making light of them. But to repeat the above, past experiences do not define you as a bad person or who you can become unless you choose to let them.
I once read that (In Forbes I think it was) that out of 500 of the top performing CEO’s and business leaders in the world, a whopping 84% had experienced a troubled childhood.
I read about Oprah Winfrey and her childhood and it didn’t prevent her from going on to great achievements. I have read countless other inspiring stories too of now successful people who had horrendous childhoods.
Nothing has any meaning other than the meaning you wish to place on it. Confucius
Maybe you did too. So what? You can’t change what has happened. But you can change how you deal with it now.
4 Look at what happened as a positive
In my own childhood I was hit a lot and I mean, a lot. Sometimes I would have to choose between a towel with a wet knot tied in the bottom, a riding crop or the hand. I never got the one I chose. I also suffered severe psychological abuse for about 10 years or so.
But I am actually thankful for what happened. Why? because it made me an excellent reader of people. I learned to read my Mums’ and step-dads’ motives and intentions through their body language from a very early age. All of what happened to me has chiseled me into who I am today. I am a wiser, stronger person for my past and in my line of work, coaching and people, what happened to me made me better at that.
I know in some cases this is not easy. But there is a way. There is always a way. It depends how you want to interpret what happened to you.
5 Be a hero rather than a victim
You can use what happened to you to be a victim all your life or you can use it to spur you on to greater things.
There is story I relay in my book about twins who have an awful, unimaginable upbringing. (Here is the shorter version)
Separated at 5 by the death of their parents, they both suffer catastrophic childhoods in different foster homes. None of them finish school as a result of the physical, sexual and psychological abuse they endure. One of the twins becomes a multimillionaire the other a drug addict and petty criminal, in and out of jail.
When a psychologist finds the twins at age 40, he asks them both the same question before reuniting them.
“What made you like you are today?” enquired the psychologist of the first twin.
“I am like I am because of my upbringing” replied the first twin.
“What made you like you are today?” enquired the psychologist of the second twin.
“I am like I am because of my upbringing” replied the second twin.
You see how it works? One used his past to be a victim the other used it to empower himself. It’s not what happened to you that counts. It is ultimately, how you choose to respond.
6 Forgive those who caused you hurt
When I forgave my parents it was like I had just dropped a huge sack of enormous boulders from my back. I was walking a stone lighter. It was one of the best feelings I have EVER experienced my entire life.
Forgiveness does not mean that you condone what others have done to you. Neither is it an excuse for any behaviour someone has committed. And neither is it sending the message, “Hey, what you did was okay”
Forgiveness is done purely for you and you alone. In most cases, the other person does not know that you have forgiven them and neither do they have too.
Forgiveness isn’t the easiest route either. Forgiveness is the hardest thing to do. You might think you are being tough by not forgiving others, but this is not so. Holding the grudge is the easier of the two options. That’s why Gandhi said,
“Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong. The weak can never forgive”
When you forgive, the person who hurt you no longer has any control over you. You take back care of your self-esteem.
Forgiveness is the probably the most powerful exercise you can do. It will make your personal relationships far better too.
7 What happened in your childhood does not equate your value as a person now
On my workshops where I deal with the past, I take out about $100 or so and ask the audience who would like it.
All hands go up.
I then screw the money up into a ball and ask the same question. All the hands still go up.
I then take the money and, crumpled up, put it under my shoe and walk with it across the stage making it really dirty.
Again I ask who would like the money. All the hands go up. And then I ask them why they would still like the money. They usually reply because they can still spend it. It has the same value even though it has been screwed up, kicked around the stage and trodden on just as it does if it was all crisp, clean and fresh from the ATM.
And so it is with you. Other people or life itself can screw you up, kick you around and trample all over you but that does NOT lessen your value as a person.
You past doesn’t determine your value as a person but it can shape you into a positive, extraordinary person. It all depends what you want and what you choose to do.
8 You can achieve anything you want despite your past
So you see, you can achieve whatever you want despite your past or haunting childhood. The choice is entirely up to you. Sure it might not be easy, but your goals aren’t going to be achieved without effort either. But I tell you this, letting go of what happened to you makes life so much easier.
If you need help letting go then seek it. But don’t revel in your negative past reliving a story if it is serving you no purpose whatsoever and damaging what you want to achieve. If you insist on visiting your past then go to memories that inspire you to greater things that I know you can do, and be the person I know you can become.
Remember anything is possible. You can achieve. Turn your past into a positive. There is always a way you can do that.