“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” ~Oscar Wilde
If you have ever bought shares of stock, a bond, or shares in a mutual fund, you were presented with this disclaimer. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requires it. Of course, that doesn’t mean your broker sat you down, rested a hand on your shoulder and with a kind but concerned look in his eye uttered these words. No, it was in the fine print somewhere that most of us never bother to read. Frankly, we don’t want to hear it. We like guarantees. And we particularly dislike being told there shall be no guarantee. That’s worse than just the absence of a guarantee, it is a guarantee of no guarantee. No, just promise that this investment will do what it has done in the past. It probably will, right?
This is how we deal with the past. We rely upon our “reputation” and that of others. After all, you will probably act like you have in the past, right? If you have “proven” to be trustworthy, you probably won’t steal in the future. If you have a “record” of timeliness, you will probably be on time for future appointments.
If one’s past isn’t so meritorious, this may not be as pleasant but it is often accepted just the same. “I always procrastinate,” so you do again. “I can’t play poker,” so you lose your shirt. Just as expected, we mess up, fail, and lose because the past says so.
I can’t believe I am saying this, but here it is: the bureaucrats in Washington are actually on to something. The past has no magical power over the future. More importantly, the past has no magical power over the present. But there is a catch, one thing that must be different, an all important thing that is required to keep the past in the past. It is simply this: you must choose.
“Past performance does not guarantee future results.” click to tweet
The easiest choice to make is no choice: just let the past chug on forward like a loaded freight train and take what you get. Or you can choose more of the same. Often we make that choice because we have convinced ourselves that it is the only choice. But the truth is all choices lay before you. You can procrastinate or act, lose or win, show up or flake out. Past behavior is in the past. Present behavior is now and only now.
We excuse our making poor choices by referencing the past. That is just a smoke screen. The past has no more power than you give it. You can choose to give it none at all. What if you had total amnesia? What if you didn’t know you were lazy and selfish and silly? You would start with a clean slate, free to do as well as anyone else.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But here is the other side. We are talking about total amnesia. You also can’t recall you are reliable, giving, or sweet. While you don’t have the momentum to be those things now, you are no less capable of being those things than you were without the amnesia. The choices remain. In fact, now you can choose them freely instead of taking them on by default. Such mindfulness will bring more commitment and more clarity to your positive qualities.
Guarantees come at the cost of freedom. Phony guarantees both cost you freedom and put you at risk. By giving up our attachment to past performance, we open up the possibility to achieve new results, even wildly better results. In this way, past performance does not merely promise more of the same, it removes the throttle on all future results.
What is your experience with bringing the past into the present? Share it with us below by commenting.
Photo credit: simply.noteworthy