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Understanding the Past While Preparing for the Future

By Ben Baker

November 11, 2021

“Study the past if you would define the future.”


Your past, present, and future are intertwined. Your past is there to learn from, your present defines who you are today, and your future is a possibility of who you may become. The only sure thing is your past. It is what it is, and there is nothing you can do to change it. But you can learn so much from it if you allow yourself.

Too many people say, “It doesn’t matter; it’s in the past.” The problem with that is that though the event may be over and done, what happened affects you either consciously or subconsciously today and becomes part of the decision-making process of what can be.

We need to learn from our past. Our job is to deconstruct what has happened, garner the lessons learned, evaluate how this has changed us, and use this new set of knowledge to plan for our tomorrow. Without learning from the past, we are hindering ourselves.

We will maintain the same assumptions, the same skill sets, the same biases, and the same blind spots, meaning that we are not setting ourselves up for success. If we do not learn from our past, all we can do is provide ourselves with the opportunity to repeat it.

So why are so many people unwilling to learn from past mistakes? Are we afraid to admit that we are not perfect or all-knowing? Are we afraid that we are less than perfect by admitting that there are lessons to be learned? Are we afraid that people will not trust us if they see that we have had faults and missteps in our past?

Most people nod their heads yes to this, and this is a problem. None of us is perfect. None of us is all-knowing. And most people realize that people make mistakes and judge you not by the mistakes you make, but by what you learn from them and how you recover.

So what are you doing today to guide your future self? Are you willing to go back to see what lessons you missed learning along the way and rectify the situation? Are you ready to look at your present self and understand how you got to be who you are today? Are you willing to ask yourself if you have the knowledge and tools needed to become a more incredible version of yourself tomorrow? Are you ready to admit that there is more to know than you know and surround yourself with experts in certain areas in which you are deficient?

Those who succeed in life do so because they continually evaluate what went well, what did not, and how it could have been done better. Successes and challenges should be celebrated equally because both provide insights that allow us to create a better future.

We need to understand where we are to know where we want to go and how to get there. Every decision that you make today is influenced by previous choices and creates your future success.

In conclusion, we must realize that we cannot be afraid of the future or constrained by our past. Our future is never certain but becomes more apparent the more we understand who we are, what we believe in, why, and the experiences that have allowed us to gain those insights.

width=115Ben Baker is president and CEO of Your Brand Marketing, an employee engagement consultancy designed to help you communicate your brand’s value effectively inside your organization. He is the author of two books: Powerful Personal Brands: A Hands-On Guide to Understanding Yours (2018) and Leading Beyond a Crisis: A Conversation About What’s Next (2020). Ben also hosts the iHeartRadio and Spotify syndicated show, with more than 265 episodes.