Everyone has something in their past they wished they could forget, change, or go back and fix. If we think about it too much, we can allow that moment in time to hold us back from living our best life. For some of us, we can even allow one bad memory to ruin our lives. Do you have a bad memory that you keep replaying in your head? Does it keep coming back and put you in a bad mood?
What if you could choose to stop reliving it? Better yet, what if you could change what the memory means to you?
I thought about this when I heard Mike Golic on ESPN talk about the worst loss of his life. It was a high school wrestling match in 1981. He says he still thinks about it. His wife says he still talks about it so much that she tried to call the wife of the guy he lost to so they could actually set up a rematch.
Mike Golic played football and wrestled for Notre Dame. His record on the mat was 24-4-1 He played in the NFL for eight years. He won in sports time after time.
Yet, he’s still reliving a match from 37 years ago! Dude, let it go.
Greg, it’s not that easy! It’s like when a song gets in your head and you can’t stop singing it all day long. If I could stop it I would.
I get that. But we have tremendous power over what we put in our long-term memory banks. What do you focus on and think about over and over? Is it your worst losses or your greatest wins?
Yes, learn from your mistakes, but then quit reliving them. Move on. Relive your victories and all the things you did right. Build your confidence.
When a bad memory pops in your head, think about what you can learn from it. If the answer is nothing, then tell yourself you are not going to let that one moment in time affect how you feel anymore. Any time that memory starts to come up, yell STOP! (You may want to use your inside voice if other people are around. We don’t want the men in white coats, carrying nets to come for you.) Then focus on a good memory. Relive a time in your life when you were kicking butt. Ruminate on that and feel the good feelings.
If you can learn something from the old memory, acknowledge what it is. Thank your brain for helping you remember and learn that lesson. Then say to yourself, “I have learned that lesson. I never have to think about this again. To lock that in, go ahead and take action on the lesson that old memory taught you. If you can’t do that, get your brain thinking about something great you’ve done recently and focus on that.
Another great technique is to get busy making some new memories. Do something to disrupt the pattern of replaying and solidifying that bad memory in your head.
It’s almost impossible to tell yourself not to think about something. (Quick, don’t think about a purple eight-foot tall Easter bunny hopping on your front lawn.) Replace what you don’t want to think about with something awesome you do want to think about.
Try writing down your dreams, goals, and plans. When you’re writing, it’s very hard to think about anything else. Review them every morning when you wake up and every evening right before you go to bed. I know you’ve heard that before, but have you ever done that for 30 days in a row? It could change your life.
If you train your brain to focus on your successes, that will become its default setting.
This will come in handy when you’re about to do something new or big. Think back to when you’ve succeeded in similar instances and replay them in your mind. Your subconscious mind treats your successful visualizations the same as successes in the real world. Use that to build your confidence. (I know this sounds a little weird, but try it and then get back to me.)