The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Billions of dollars are being spent in the areas of beauty, weight loss, fashion, and entertainment. These are the fantasy lands from where we receive our images of success. By comparison, we are too short, too tall, too skinny, too fat, too poor, too . . . whatever. Actors, sports stars, and captains of industry all seem to be living the dream—and we are barely making a living.

If only I had been born to wealthier parents, in a better neighborhood, in a better city, in a better country. I wish I had a better education or had a better job, better prospects. I wish I had been dealt a better hand in life.

Stop wishing that, because you are not going to be dealt a better hand. You have what you have. You can’t change what has happened in the past, but that doesn’t mean it is all you can ever have.

Many have made mistakes, poor choices, taken unwise paths, and hung around with the wrong crowd. Face it, accept it, stop fighting it. You can’t undo the mistakes of the past. Stop trying to go backward. Use that energy to go forward.

Don’t live in the past. Look at your strengths, not just your weaknesses.

Well, this all sounds very fine, dandy, and noble. But how do we do that? We have to become our own first responder. When a catastrophe occurs, the first responders go in and rescue people, they apply life-saving procedures and spirit away the wounded to safety.

The white knight, on his white charger, is not about to turn up anytime soon, so we had better get busy helping ourselves. We had better come up with our own rescue plan and start moving forward.

Before we can make that move, though, we must throw off the heavy burdens holding us back. These are not physical barriers, but mental ones. We need to start by freeing ourselves from our past. Horrible, sad, unfair, gross, ridiculous things happened to us. Or we had supreme bad luck. It doesn’t matter. We must move forward.

Now, I didn’t say we had to forget what happened. That is unlikely, and probably impossible. The trick is to free ourselves from the incapacitation that those past events are having on our daily reality. We need to focus on what is in front of us today, what is in the locus of our control.

If yesterday is haunting us to the point we can’t focus on today, we are never going to break free. To get rid of yesterday—so we can concentrate on today—we need to take the worry component out of our frame of reference. We can recall the past, but we need to remove the worry bit. Worrying about it changes nothing, so recall but stop worrying about it. Create your own hermetically sealed memory house with glass walls, ceilings, windows, floors, and doors where the content is visible but nothing can get out. Mentally make it so the worry dimension cannot escape to contaminate your today.

Having done that, we switch gears and look at our strengths and assets.

Assets? What assets, you ask? You have time, and that is the greatest asset you can ever have. You spend time either productively or less productively, but you still spend time. By looking at time as your asset, you can now start the process of going on to the front foot and thinking about how to spend that time more efficiently, effectively, and productively.

You can set down a detailed vision for yourself—where and how you would like to be in the near future. Next, you can arrange a series of key, high-priority goals which will help you achieve that vision. Your goals must be broken down into precise, defined, realistic action steps to realize the vision’s objectives. Now we devote all the time we have available to working on those action steps. This process creates forward momentum from which we can build further, step by step. What did all this cost you? A small part of your greatest asset: time.

Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business—but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organizations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do it? Contact me at greg.story@dalecarnegie.com.

We need to start by freeing ourselves from our past.