LEARN FROM THE PAST, LIVE IN THE PRESENT, PLAN FOR THE FUTURE.
- Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.
- Insanity is doing the same thing while expecting a different outcome.
I thought of these well-used lines while sitting in my office yesterday watching a fly that was caught against the window. It tried repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, to get out of my office. If I could have found my way into that fly’s head, I am almost certain I would have heard it thinking, “I need to try harder next time. I didn’t succeed because I did not hit the window hard enough. Let me back up and try again.”
This incident was the perfect example of not learning from the past, or previous effort, as well as expecting a different outcome despite repeating the same action over and over again.
How often do we find ourselves being like the fly?
We fail at a task, but try repeatedly to create the outcome we want by repeating the same action, only harder, stronger, or more intensely. We don’t realize that a whole new
plan is necessary. We also fail to learn from the past. We try to master the past instead of learn from it.
This keeps us stuck in the past–which prevents us from living in the present or from planning for the future. It is impossible to master the past, but it is possible to apply a lesson learned from the past to a current situation. Likewise, it is impossible to master the future, but it’s possible to apply functional knowledge learned now when a new future situation arises.
Let us consider a more relatable example. Many of us, at one time or another, have experienced the financially crippling effects of credit card debt. Today’s credit card debt is generally the accumulation of poor financial decisions made in the past.
Despite this, we fail to do anything different to alleviate the situation. We lament the debt. We may focus on picking up overtime at work or finding a higher-paying job, but then we make the minimum payment and use the card for another thing we want and don’t truly need.
As with the fly, nothing changes and we fail to learn from the past. The only way to address the debts of the past are to take ‘change producing action’ in the present–the only place where action can occur.
Such action may include cutting up the card, closing an account, foregoing the wants we have for needs only, saving some money today until cash can be used to purchase an item, or lowering another bill in order to increase payment on the card.
As action is taken in the now, the effects of the past are eliminated. When the debt is paid, our financial affairs are no longer dictated by choices we made in the past.
Being free of debt through actions taken in the ‘now’ allows one to put what once was a payment for debts in the past into a savings account for the future. Thereby, we are able to plan for the future by the action we take now, and we are only able to take change producing action now as we allow ourselves to learn from the decisions we have made in the past.
There is never a better time than the present to take action. Now is the time to stop trying to master the past. Rather, learn what you need to from the past so that you can master the present, the only place where action can occur. This will give you the confidence to face the future without fear as you apply what you learn now in planning for the future.