The Resilient Lawyer – Stop Borrowing Pain from the Past and the Future

In the article that I posted last week, I talked about how developing a positive morning routine and accepting my own self-worth helped to improve my resilience.  Given that the new addition to my morning routine of reading a self-help book seemed to be working, I asked my wife if she had any other books that she thought might help me.  Off we went to the myriad of books she has collected over the years, and she picked out Eckhart Tolle’s book called “The Power of Now:  A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.”  Now I am not going to lie to you – the title of the book set off that nagging voice in the back of my head which told me that this book was going to be “mumbo jumbo”.  Well, as it turns out, my nagging voice was wrong.

I am sure most of us have done something in the past that we are not particularly proud of, had something done to us which was particularly painful, made a mistake at work that caused some problems, or even just flubbed up in a game that caused our team to lose.  I am sure a painful memory was triggered in your mind just reading that sentence as it was in my mind while writing it.  Does not feel good right?  Before reading Eckhart Tolle’s book, I would have fretted about that painful memory for the rest of the day, and maybe even a few days after.  This fretting made it particularly difficult for me to be in a good mood, which negatively impacted my relationships.  It also made it particularly difficult for me to pay full attention to whatever task I was doing, which, in turn, prevented me from performing at my best.

It seemed, for me, as I am sure it does for others, that fretting about the past was not enough.  I also had to fret about the future.  I was constantly worried that something was going to go wrong.  If I made a mistake, I imagined all of the negative things that would happen to me.  Again, not only was this fretting affecting my mood thereby impacting my relationships, it was also impacting my ability to pay full attention to the task at hand thereby impacting my ability to come up with a solution for whatever problem I had.  

After reading Eckhart Tolle’s book I began to realize how devasting borrowing pain from the past and the future was having on my resilience.  You see, one of the essential premises behind Tolle’s book is to implore us to stop living in the past or in the future.  As Tolle so adequately point out, we cannot change the past.  No amount of fretting or wishing can change what has happened.  It is way better for us to forgive and forget, not only those who have harmed us, but ourselves as well.  After all, we are only human and we all make mistakes. 

And as for worrying about the future?  For those of us who enjoy watching the pre-game shows for the NHL, NFL, NBA, Formula 1, or whatever sporting league we enjoy watching, the sportscasters try to predict the future and tell us how they think that the game is going to play out.  Do the games really ever play out that way?  They rarely do.  The same goes for our own predictions about the terrible things that we think are going to happen to us in the future.  The point is, as Tolle again adequately point out, we cannot know for sure what the future holds, and worrying about things that may never happen is pointless.  

So what does that mean?  According to Tolle, it means we are much better off living in the present moment, rather than in the past or the future.  By living in the present moment, and not fretting about the past or the future, not only are we able to improve our resilience, we are also able to bring our full and most capable selves to whatever task we are doing. 

Thanks to Tolle, I had arrived at the next destination on my journey to improved resilience.  

To end this post, I ask you the following questions:

What would letting go of the past look like for you?

What would letting go of fretting about the future look like for you?

How would it feel for you to stop borrowing pain from the past and the future?