Yesterday I wrote about the first way to a more joyful life, that we should be content with our circumstances. Today, part two talks about the past.
2. Don’t Dwell on the Past
Another great joy-killer is our tendency as humans to dwell on the past. I’ve seen this in my own life and in the lives of others. We make a mistake or do something we regret and that regret haunts us. We constantly think, “What if?” What if I hadn’t done that? What if I had chosen to do something different? “If only,” we say. We can launch ourselves into a sort of constant analysis and re-analysis of all the in’s and out’s of what has happened, what has passed and what can no longer be changed. What often results is that we lose sight of today as we focus on the past, particularly our failures, and many times we lose our joy somewhere along the way and we lose the day we have today.
We can also try to ride the waves of past success which is not so healthy either. Success has a way of giving us great happiness and great pride. We feel like we can climb the highest mountain and cross the widest sea. If only we could maintain that past success, if I can keep that success going and the feelings that go with it, I’d continue to be happy. You know what I’m talking about it. Remember the high school star that still lives in his past greatness? Or maybe you’ve continued to hang your hat on some great accomplishment of your own. Past greatness and accomplishments are wonderful and we should be proud of them. But missing today because we’re focusing on our past achievements doesn’t bring lasting joy.
Dwelling on the past is a joy-killer. It’s a fact of life, we’ll experience highs and lows along the way. Some people will have more highs, others, more lows. But the challenge is not to dwell on either our failure or our success but to put those things behind us, moving on to what awaits us today. God help us.
Paul writes in Philippians 3:13 (NIV), “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. but one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” That is a great challenge. Take the challenge, don’t dwell on the past and eat two cookies and call me in the morning.