Let Go of the Past on Your Way to a Much Better Future


Letting go of the past not only means overcoming past events, but it also has to do with your future. By dwelling on past mistakes or clinging to painful experiences can be detrimental to your growth and potential.

You see, as much as you want to improve and become better this means changing your ways. Change can bring up feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and even fear. The past and current way of doing things is something that, for better or worse, you’re used to.

One of my favorite quotes is that successful people get over their mistakes and get over them quickly.

This is one way to look at it is recognizing and acknowledging your mistakes, but not letting them affect your worth or emotional state. It is a mindset shift that helps you let go and learn from mistakes instead of becoming fearful and anxious and not trying new things because of past mistakes or mess-ups.

You can think of the past in a similar way. Although it is part of your journey you can’t let it impact your future growth.

Table of Contents

Why Is It So Hard to Let Go of the Past?

 While it is clear that holding onto the past is detrimental, it can be surprisingly challenging to let go of certain experiences and emotions.

Things like past trauma or emotional pain associated with it can have a huge impact on a person but there are ways in which you can alleviate that impact in order to grow and thrive.

If you’re trying to let go of the past it’s normal to experience some challenges and these are some reasons why it might happen:

  1. Emotional Attachment: Strong emotional connections to past experiences and events, whether positive or negative, can make it difficult to detach from them. These attachments can be rooted in unresolved grief, love, anger, or regret.
  2. Fear of Letting Go: There may be a fear of letting go, especially if it involves letting go of memories, relationships, or beliefs that you consider a part of who you are. This fear stems from the uncertainty of what’s to come.
  3. Lack of Coping Mechanisms: You may not have developed effective coping mechanisms to deal with difficult or negative emotions or past traumas. This can lead to emotional overwhelm and a sense of being trapped in the past due to unresolved emotions.
  4. Unprocessed Trauma: Unaddressed trauma, such as abuse, neglect, or loss, can leave deep emotional scars that are difficult to heal. These unresolved traumas can hinder the ability to move on and let go of the past.

How Do You Motivate Yourself to Leave the Past Behind?

Letting go of the past, or past beliefs that drag you down is crucial for personal growth. These beliefs might have nothing to do with your abilities, but they were instilled in you by others, and over time they hurt your confidence and ability to flourish.

Working toward change is working toward a different future. If a better future is what you have in mind, you must let go of the past. Being stuck in the past entails no movement forward.

Oftentimes, past struggles sit heavy on your shoulders and hold you back from both living in the moment and moving forward at the speed that you want.

This can affect your mental health, so it’s important to tackle this in order to feel better.

Research done on ‘Rumination in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder’ rumination is now well-established as a diagnostic cognitive process, including in the context of post-traumatic stress. It involves repeated and unproductive dwelling on a particular theme – for example, replaying a past event or thinking over and over about one’s emotions.

It is clear that past experience has an impact on the way you process thoughts and emotions and how a painful event can determine feeling stuck and ruminating over the past.

According to research, holding on to your past is something you tend to do because it contributes to your sense of identity. People are reluctant to let go of the past and cling to it.

As negative and painful as it is, you might feel that it is part of who you are. By doing that, you allow negativity, anger, and fear to take over your mind. This shapes your energy and state of mind in the present.


Letting Go of the Past

Every day, every hour, and every moment is a new chance to let go. A chance to dust the past away, and to make room for new energy, new experiences, and a new state of mind.

Because you cannot change the past, it brings with it a sense of frustration.

You will feel stronger and more hopeful if you drop that bag full of heavy rocks, your past, on the side of the road, and walk forward at full speed, lighter and happier.

Who wants to go on a marathon with a bag full of heavy rocks on their back? It is a deceiving sense of identity because it works against you rather than for you.

It can take work and time, but it’s worth it and you can do it with the right approach, help, and support system.

Three Steps to Help You Let Go of the Past

Here are three steps that help you to move forward. To create a new, winning, pain-free identity, and let go of the past:

1. Identify Your Habit of Focusing on the Past

The first step is of course identifying the habit and what triggers it in order to gain insight into your thought process.

If you are dealing with overwhelming negative thoughts it is beneficial to get professional help in order to get the right direction and provide additional support in this process.

2. Train Your Mind to Shift Back to the Present

Shifting your focus to the present is crucial for your well-being and personal growth.

Dwelling on the past can lead to negative emotions and slow down decision-making.

To train your mind, you can practice mindfulness through meditation. This can help you cultivate gratitude for the present, and accept the past without letting it define you.

Setting future goals provides a positive focus, and seeking professional help is beneficial if past experiences significantly impact your present. It’s a gradual process, so be patient and celebrate small improvements.

Try to be in the moment every time you drift back to past talk and past-oriented focus.

3. Envision the Future

Once you are back at the present moment, envision the future that you are working toward in detail and linger on the pleasure that that future entails.

Your life matters. Your success matters. Holding on to the past, especially if it is painful and complicated, weighs you down and tires the brain.

You’ll be better off focusing on the present and future and focusing your energy there. A painful past cannot be erased, but a hopeful future cures many wounds. Take a big step into the horizon, and work hard on not looking back.

Tips to Let Go And What You Can Do To Start

Acknowledge and Accept the Pain:

  1. Don’t suppress or deny your feelings. Instead, acknowledge the hurt, sadness, or guilt associated with past experiences. This acceptance is essential for healing and moving on.

Practice Self-Compassion:

  1. Show yourself kindness and understanding as you work through past hurts. Forgive yourself for any mistakes you’ve made and accept that you are human and capable of change.

Prioritize Self-Care

Prioritize activities that promote your overall well-being, such as exercise, healthy eating, and relaxation techniques. These practices can help reduce stress, improve mood, and increase your resilience.

Create New Positive Experiences

Focus on creating new positive experiences in your daily life. Engage in activities that bring you joy, connect with supportive people, and pursue goals that align with your values.

Seek Professional Support

If you’re struggling to let go of past hurts or if your emotional distress is interfering with your daily life, consider seeking professional help from a mental health professional. A therapist can provide guidance, support, and effective coping strategies.

What You Can Do To Start


Practices like meditation and yoga can help you focus on the present moment and reduce ruminating thoughts about the past. Create a safe space for yourself to feel comfortable.

Mindfulness interrupts the cycle of repetitive thoughts about past events. Instead of getting caught up in rumination, you learn to observe your thoughts without judgment, allowing them to come and go.

Commitment Therapy

Therapy can help with gaining insight if you have difficulty letting go. focuses on strengthening relationships and resolving conflicts, which can help improve your relationships with family members and partners.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy that combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness strategies.

The goal of ACT is to help people accept the difficulties that come with life while committing to actions that enrich and improve their lives.

Getting in touch with a licensed therapist can help you if you have a difficult time letting go and help build your relationship with yourself in order to take ownership of your future.


Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning or forgetting past wrongdoings. It’s about letting go of anger, resentment, and bitterness, which can free you from the burden of a painful experience. This way you’ll be able to build forward momentum and spend time on new relationships, new memories, and all in all things that matter to you.

Writing or Talking

Expressing your emotions through journaling, writing, or talking to a trusted friend or therapist can help you process and release past hurts.

Gradual Exposure

If certain situations or memories trigger strong emotional reactions, gradually exposing yourself to them in a safe and controlled environment can help you desensitize to the triggers and reduce their impact.

Remember, letting go of the past is a journey, not a destination.

It takes time, patience, and effort, but it is possible to create a more fulfilling and peaceful future by releasing the grip of past hurts and embracing new opportunities ahead.

Will letting go of the past make me happier?

Letting go of the past can significantly improve your happiness. Holding onto past grievances, regrets, or negative experiences can create emotional baggage that weighs you down.

When you let go of these attachments, you free up mental and emotional space to fully experience and appreciate the present. It allows for personal growth, improved relationships, and a greater sense of well-being.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that letting go is a process that takes time and effort. It involves acceptance, forgiveness, and a shift in perspective.

Ultimately, by focusing on the present and cultivating a positive mindset, you take ownership of your chances of finding happiness and fulfillment in your current life.


To forgive yourself and move on from the past, acknowledge mistakes, reflect on lessons learned, and practice self-compassion. Release guilt and shame, apologize if necessary, and set boundaries to prevent repeating past behaviors. Focus on the present, practice mindfulness, seek support, and redefine self-worth.

Letting go of the past is essential for emotional freedom, personal growth, and healthier relationships.

It reduces stress, improves decision-making, and conserves energy. Ultimately, letting go of the past is a transformative journey for a more fulfilling life.

To overcome a painful past or negative emotions, you need to acknowledge them.
Seek support from trusted individuals or professionals, practice forgiveness and mindfulness, set healthy boundaries, and take small steps towards healing for a gradual journey of emotional well-being.

To accept past failures it’s important to practice self-compassion. Viewing mistakes as learning opportunities can help you navigate challenges. It’s essential to acknowledge efforts, set realistic expectations, and disconnect your self-worth from achievements. Focusing on the present, seeking support from others, and considering professional guidance contribute to an ongoing process of self-acceptance and personal growth.

Forgiving your past self can be tough due to lingering guilt and unrealistic expectations. When confidence is low, it becomes challenging to separate your self-worth from past mistakes, creating a persistent barrier to self-forgiveness.

Low self-confidence can contribute to a negative self-perception, making it harder to believe in your capacity for change and growth.

Recognizing the impact of low self-confidence on this journey is crucial.

Confidence is a quality that can be built over time, which can help with self-forgiveness and personal development.

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Dr. Michelle Rozen

Dr. Michelle Rozen, Ph.D., is a highly respected authority on the psychology of change. She is one of the most booked motivational speakers nationwide as well as internationally, and a frequent guest on media outlets such as NBC, ABC, FOX News, and CNN on topics related to dealing with change in our world and in every aspect of our lives, so that we can do better and feel better.

Her most recent book, 2 Second Decisions helps people power through with their most challenging decisions through turbulent times.

Dr. Michelle Rozen consistently speaks for Fortune 500 companies and her clients include some of the most recognizable companies in the world including Johnson & Johnson, Merrill Lynch, Pfizer, and The U.S. Navy. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Psychology and resides in the greater NYC area.

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