How many times have you heard one person speaking about another, only to say, “She (or he) has baggage.” Things happen to us in our lives that we tend to carry around with us. Sometimes we carry the experience for years, sometimes for a lifetime.
Experiences are good things. They are what shape our personalities and ultimately determine who we are. Our experiences make us unique. They give us something to share with others. They shape our perspectives, and when we are really lucky, allow us the insight to change our perspectives.
The trouble with some experiences, though, is that they can get in the way. They can cause interference in our lives that prevents us from achieving happiness. They keep us from reaching our goals. Those experiences that should free us, instead act as bonds, preventing us from achieving personal growth.
As we make our way through this mad adventure we call life, we must learn to take our experiences as they come to us, learn from them, then move on. This is not to say you cast them aside on the pathway of life, but rather you tuck them in and put them to bed. They are still with you, but they are quiet.
1. Accept Responsibility for Your Circumstances
Part of letting go of the emotional baggage that comes along with experience is accepting our own role in what has happened to us. Each action, each decision we make in our lives takes us to a particular outcome. Different choices lead to alternate experiences. We are the creator of who we are, and where we are in our lives. Learning to accept the responsibility for that is an enormous step towards realizing fulfillment.
Do not choose to lay the blame for your lot in life on the shoulders of others. Those who come from the poorest families can achieve the greatest successes. Those who come from the richest of families can lead the dreariest of lives. Our fate lies in our own hands, and we must handle it gingerly.
2. Believe in Yourself
For most of us, past experiences tell us that we cannot do something. Seldom do we have experiences – that we vividly remember – that enforce our own worthiness or abilities. We become trapped, fooled by our own minds into believing we cannot accomplish our goals.
Relationships are a prime example of this, as anyone who has gone through the gut-wrenching experience of divorce can attest to. Following the dissolution of an important relationship, we cast a lot of doubts. Depending upon the circumstances, we doubt others, to be sure, but secretly we also doubt ourselves. We wonder what we were lacking that led to such grief. We wonder what we could have done differently.
These things are all beneficial to explore, and with luck, you will find answers. But they must then be put aside. The tendency is to allow the problems of the past to affect the present. Learn from the past, put it behind you, and live for the here and now, not what once was.
3. Find Your Inner Strength
Once you have accepted responsibility for where you are today, and have visited your old ghosts and put them to bed, realize you are stronger and wiser for those experiences. It generally amazes us that we survive our own youth, so take pride in the fact that you have made it this far, and realize you are probably a much stronger person than you give yourself credit for. You can weather the storms life sends your way, so dive in with both feet and enjoy it.
None of us should regret our past experiences. Even the worst of deeds can bring about the greatest self-realizations. Each of our experiences is what makes us unique, shaping us as individuals and preventing us from being like everyone else. Take your confidence from the challenges you have overcome, and open your heart to the experiences that lay ahead. We all know where the journey that is life eventually leads, so you may as well decide to enjoy the journey. Do not allow yourself to reach the end of the road, regretting that you did not open yourself up to the experiences presented to you along the way.