Top 10 Tips To Better Understand How Your Past Shapes You

Looking back on your past can offer a lot of benefits. Focusing on the past isn’t always fun (think about all those embarrassing moments!) but learning how to examine your whole past – the good and the bad – can help you really understand how your past has shaped you into the person you are today.

Related: Top 10 Tips To Better Understand How You See Yourself

To better understand how your past shapes you, consider trying these ten tips:

#1 Connect Your Current Behaviors With Past Causes

Understanding direct links between your past and your present can help you understand how the past has shaped you over time. A great way to do this is by connecting your current behaviors with past causes.

 For example, if you had a truly frightening experience involving the dark when you were a child, you may still feel hesitant about being in the dark now: you may still use nightlights in your home and always leave lights on wherever you go inside the house. 

#2 Think About Times In The Past When You Felt Happiest And Most Satisfied

Think back to all the times in your life when you have felt happiest and most satisfied. These times can be highly reflective of your biggest interests, hobbies, and passions. 

Pay close attention to how these different interests and passions have followed you from the past and into your present. If those old interests and passions haven’t followed you into your present, perhaps it is time to take note of the past and bring them back into your life. 

#3 Identify Any Defining Moments Of The Past That Made Lasting, Big Impacts On Your Development And Growth

Many people can identify key moments in their past that made big and lasting impacts on their development and growth. Unfortunately, some of these defining moments are traumatic ones – some people experienced great trauma in their past that made massive impacts on their present life. 

Similarly, some people experienced great moments of happiness that helped project themselves into a happy present. Identify all the key moments of the past; they will give you great insight into how your past has shaped you.

#4 Understand That Your Past Plays The Role Of “The Informant” In Your Life

All people look to the past as a sort of “informant” in their lives. For example, you may find yourself thinking thoughts such as…

  • “I did it this way before, so this same method will work for me again.”
  • “I’ll never do that again. The last time I did it, I had a bad experience.”
  • “That meal was delicious last time, so I’m going to order it again today.”
  • …and many more!

When people find themselves in a decision-making situation, they often call upon the past like a great filing cabinet filled with information to help them make the best choice. Pay close attention to your past experiences – they all serve as the information that helps drive your present-day decision making.

#5 Take Away Key “Lessons Learned” From Past Mistakes And Failures

When you think back on your last mistake or failure, you may feel cringe-worthy embarrassment or shame over what happened. However, a faux pas can help you avoid making similar mistakes and failures again in the future. Take away key “lessons learned” from experiences like these. You can use this knowledge as a method of avoiding making the same mistakes again in the future.

#6 Identify Which Of Your Beliefs And Values Were Adopted From Someone Else

Think back to who influenced you most when you were young. For most people, it was likely parents, grandparents, siblings, childhood friends, teachers, and others who they would regularly encounter. Spend some time identifying which of your beliefs and values were adopted from these other folks who played key roles in your formative years – it can give you a lot of insight into how your past shaped you.

#7 Trace Your Current Issues In Life “Backwards” To Find Their Root Causes

Many current life issues can be traced backward to determine their root causes. Often, these issues cannot be remedied unless the root cause of them is addressed. For example, consider the example of being afraid of the dark in the first tip. 

“Being afraid of the dark” is the current issue, but if the person traced the issue backwards, they could remember the first time the darkness truly scared them as a child. Upon exploration of this part of their past, they may realize that it isn’t the darkness that bothers them, but the anxiety of something bad and unknown happening to them that causes the fear.

#8 Pay Close Attention To Which Messages From Your Past Are Allowed To Cross Over Into The Present

As you continue to grow and develop into the person you are meant to be, you will likely realize that some messages from your past are not conducive to success in your present. You may realize that you need to unlearn some beliefs and habits that you picked up in the past. 

This is a normal part of growth and development for all people. Pay close attention to the messages from your past that you allow to continue into your present. These messages can shape you for the better or for the worst. 

#9 Think Of The Past As A Part Of Your Foundation

As you look backward into the past, it’s nice to think of yourself as a building. You couldn’t be where you are now without a good foundation full of experiences, memories, and more. 

This foundation helped build you into the person you are today – spend some time thinking about how your past has served as a good foundation for you to continue building a life for yourself; doing so will help you understand how the past has shaped you. 

#10 Spend Some Time In Honest Reflection Of The Past

Spend some time really reflecting on your past. Often, people like to think of their pasts as their “glory days,” only reveling in the most positive and happy memories. While remembering positive and happy memories is a wonderful practice, it is also important to be honest by also reflecting on memories that aren’t so happy. 

Be honest with your reflections and really analyze everything you experienced – not just the “good stuff.” Doing so can help you better understand how your past has shaped you into who you are now. 

Top 10 Tips To Better Understand How Your Past Shapes You