The Power of the Past to Shape the Future

I am a fan of the past. I like to go back in my past and live in the memories that have been created. With many people, that is just not popular.

Superbowl winning football coach Mike Ditka says, “I don’t believe in living in the past. Living in the past is for cowards. If you live in the past, you die in the past.”

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu states, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the past. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

“Every moment you live in the past is a moment you waste in the present.” expresses motivator Tony Robbins.

So why should you listen to me instead of these well accomplished individuals? Because my version of living in the past is meant to be short historical trips to earlier times in your life to use them to propel you more efficiently into the future. Let’s discuss how that works. We will use the concept of PEC found in my book The Time-Optimized Life. PEC stands for preparation, execution, and control.

Download chapter 1 and get a peak at PEC and how the past can be a help for the present and the future. Get it here.

Your Past as Preparation

In my early career days, I worked for a major department store. During the training program, I was given a project to complete a merchandise plan. It was detailed and complicated. I keep procrastinating because I looked at the project as a whole and not a variety of smaller tasks to get to the sum of the whole.

When I finally got around to getting it done, I was praised for my work. However, because I delayed, it cost me an extra few weeks in the training program and I had to wait to be promoted into a managers role.

That incident has become a benchmark for me when I sense I am procrastinating at something. Going back and reliving the time when I postponed on something important is a catalyst to drive me to execute.

Your Past for Execution

At another point in my career, I received an early morning call from my boss. It started with, “Do I need to give you some room to find another job?” I was surprised, not surprised. I had been struggling with my assignment and was not reaching out to others for help. After a long discussion, his call to me was a “wake-up call.” Long story short, I began to execute well and turned my performance around.

That unpleasant situation is a reminder that executing your assigned duties or project is a nonstop process. Therefore, I will delve into the past and relive that call to remember to kick start what I am doing today so I do not disappoint what is needed for the future.

Your Past as a Means of Control

I sold a big program to one of our top customers. I was so excited. However, I forgot to see what additional merchandise parts were needed to display the product well. Fast forward months later to three days before the product shipped. My support specialist was on me (justifiably so) about what we were going to do, since the stores did not have what they needed. Long story short again, we were able to come up with a solution using existing parts already in the store and shipped those instructions out with each order.

I was lucky, I let myself lose control of the circumstances, but with help – I recovered. When I sense I am not being proactive to influence positive outcomes, I head into my past and remember the feeling of the fear and anxiety I felt as the deadline approached on the shipment of the program.

At Least Use Your Past the PEC Way

I am going to go out on a limb and say that Mike Ditka, Lao Tzu, and Tony Robbins might be Ok with using the past through preparation, execution, and control (PEC). The goal is to relive those difficult moments, not to wallow in them, but to provide context to your behavior today. Once you come back to the present, you have the mindset to embrace the future.

David Buck is the author of the book “The Time-Optimized Life, owner of Kairos Management Solutions, LLC, and founder of the Infinity Lifestyle Design program. As a certified professional retirement coach (CPRC), David works with financial services providers helping their clients create a post-career lifestyle strategy. To learn more, contact him at or visit Infinity Lifestyle Design.

Book a quick call to discuss Time-Optimized Lifestyle planning HERE.

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