How to Let Go of the Past? – Learn from it and then make the past let go of you

In an article by Tony Robbins, “How to Let Go of the Past” he points to how we as individuals are meant to live in this world. While the article was great, I want to suggest that living your desired life and becoming who you are truly meant to be is not about letting go of the past, but revisiting it, learning from it, and telling yourself a new and empowering story. You can not change the past but you can change the story that you’ve been telling yourself about your past.

The full article for Robbins is cited below, but I want to walk you through a few points that he makes and add some thoughts of my own.

“So we hang on to the past – because even if it’s steeped in pain, it’s what we are familiar with and what we have certainty about.” -Tony Robbins.

For some reason, we have a tendency to hang on to the past even it’s painful. The familiarity and certainty that the past offers is the problem. The experiences in your life create a set of beliefs about who you can become in the world. The experiential narratives (life events that were painful) and inherited narratives (things you were told about life, accepted as true and never questions), influence behaviors and feelings. There are negative experiences in your past that created your sense of self-doubt, fear, anxieties, and beliefs about what you can and cannot do.

Overcoming the influence of the past is not about letting go of what happened, it’s about not letting what happen to you influence who you are right now. In some cases,  you have to revisit the painful memories of what happened, identify the impact those moments had on you, and then take the power back. Most people don’t like revisiting the past because it hurts. The fact that it still hurts is the reason you revisit it one last time – to take the emotional power from it. The key is in understanding that a moment in your life does not have to determine the rest of your life. When you let the past dictate the present you become a character trapped in someone else’s play. You find yourself living a past-driven present life.

We are often conditioned to simply move on and let go. But moving on and letting go does not heal the impact of things that happened. It merely suppresses the feelings attached to past events. As a result, an old life event becomes a ghost that haunts you and shows up when you least expect it or want it to. But in order to experience true freedom from past pain you have to courageously confront the ghost, release yourself from its grip, and live into a new story – one that you get to create.

Yes, there are past experiences that hurt you by taking your confidence, instilling self-doubt, and creating a sense of uncertainty or distrust. However, you are not the same person now that you were back then. You are stronger, you have more wisdom, more control over your decisions, and the ability to make different choices. At this point in your life, it’s not so much about letting go of the past, but demanding that the past let go of you. You do that by telling yourself a new story about who you are now and the person you desire to become. You are not a character trapped in someone else’s play, but you have the authority to play the lead in your life by writing your own script.

“Determine your reason for wanting to let go of the past. Ask yourself: “What are the reasons that you absolutely must move beyond this? How will your life change? How will it change the trajectory of your relationships? And how will you feel in this new chapter of your life?” – Tony Robbins

Some people are addicted to the negative of the past. They refuse to let it go even when they know it is not good for them. I think this happens because they do not know how to let it go. As Robbins pointed out, they have not found a good enough reason to move on. Below is the conversation I had with a friend who had a tendency to focus on the past.

– Conversation-

RT: Why do you keep talking about what went wrong back then?

FRIEND: because it happened!

RT: Yes, it did but it doesn’t have to keep happening. Every time you talk about what went wrong back then, you’re talking as if it’s real right now. But what happened back then isn’t true for you right now, unless you allow it to be. What would you do, how would you feel, if you stopped talking about what went wrong back then and focused on the life you’re living right now?

FRIEND: I wouldn’t be angry, I would be grateful for the present moment; I’d do things differently.

RT: So basically the only thing that focusing on what happened back then does to you is take away your appreciation for your life right now? And the real value is found in focusing on the current moment rather than seeing it through the lens of the past.


“By identifying your emotional habits, you can start to make the shift towards actively conditioning yourself towards a more positive experience. Because your emotions are like a muscle – you can train yourself to feel frustrated, sad, stressed or even depressed. Or, you can train yourself to feel passionate, joyful and strong. The more you condition yourself, the more wired those emotions become.” Tony Robbins

In order to truly break the cycle and shift your emotional state for good, not only do you have to learn new habits that open you up to joy, passion and strength, you also have to get to the root source of what created the old habits that you are choosing to leave behind. If you do not learn from the life events that were previously the source of your habits, those old habits and beliefs have the potential of showing right back up again. It’s like cutting down a weed, but not pulling it up by the root. When you cut it down you cannot see it any more but that does not mean it is really gone. It is just living beneath the surface, but when you pull it up from the root, it is no longer in the soil of your soul. Creating new habits and patterns is important but revisiting the source of the old habits is a critical part of pulling them up by the root to nurture the new habits and behaviors in good soil.  

“The ultimate breakthrough happens by conditioning your mind every single day. If you don’t make the conscious effort to decide what you allow into your mind, then you are allowing weeds to grow and to spread.” – Tony Robbins

This is an absolute fact. Meditation and starting the day off with self-affirmations are just as important as eating breakfast before you start your day. Food gives your body fuel to perform tasks, but meditation and self-affirmations are the fuel that allows your mind to perform at a higher level. You would not starve your body, therefore you should not starve your mind. Both require nourishment so that you can live your desired life.

“Feed yourself empowering stories, surround yourself with people who make you better, put yourself in peak state. It’s the small rituals that you do every day that build momentum and, ultimately, lead to massive change.” – Tony Robbins

I got nothing. He’s spot on.

“No matter how broke you may be or how broken you feel, you have something to offer others…. Giving back reminds you of what you were made for.” – Tony Robbins.

The bottom line here is gratitude. The cure for a negative attitude is gratitude. It is impossible to be grateful and grumpy at the same time. You were made to give and receive. In fact, you do it every day without even trying. It is called breathing. Trees release oxygen when they use energy from sunlight and when you exhale you give back carbon dioxide. It is the cycle of life. You were created to give and receive. The key is in your willingness to live life with open hands.


“How to Let Go of the Past”