Posted: November 24, 2020 in: Personal Empowerment, Pain-2-Power

How to Change the Past

I have written before that the future defines the past—meaning, that you can’t judge the stresses and challenges you are living through until you see them in retrospect.  Losing a job can pave the way for starting a business that succeeds.  Turmoil in a marriage that hurts a lot can set the stage for starting counseling and establishing a more powerful bond.  Maybe one of the simplest examples is holding a stock:  You might buy it and watch it go down in value.  Maybe it loses 80 percent of its value.  You’re thinking how foolish it was to buy it.  You wish you never had.  Then, it rises to three times the price you paid for it.  It then becomes pretty hard to beat yourself up over the purchase or wish you had never made it.  The future, therefore, ended up defining the past.

This morning, a friend of mine named Howard Strauber sent me a quote that takes the concept even further. The quote was from Willem De Kooning, an abstract artist born in the Netherlands, who emigrated to the United States in 1926 as a stowaway on a British freighter, joining the Woodstock art colony in 1928.  DeKooning said, “The past does not influence me; I influence it.”

I love DeKooning’s insight because it makes it clearer that the past isn’t just defined by the future in a passive way.  We need not see ourselves as blown here or there by the winds of time, then able to look back and think about the journey as worth it or not.  Each of us has the ability to define the past by making the most of our opportunities in the future.  Like DeKooning, we have to board the vessels that take us where we want to go, often at some peril, often with real risk.  In so doing, we are not only charting a course for the future but, in a very real way, we are laying the groundwork to redefine the past.

A boxer who loses nine bruising rounds to win in the tenth has to find the inner strength and clarity of mind to draw on in that tenth round.  But the tenth round turns the whole story into a comeback story, instead of a defeat.  And the whole of the story, therefore, really does change the past in important ways—because absorbing pain on the path to power is a whole lot different than absorbing pain on the way to accepting defeat.  Pain-2-Power.  Now, where did you hear that before?

That’s really a big part of what I’ve been up to as a life coach, by the way.  I collaborate with my clients to turn the next chapters of their life stories into the most powerful ones of their lives.  In so doing, we not only optimize today and tomorrow, we redefine the past as the prelude to wonderful personal and professional successes.

Dr. Keith Ablow


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