“Study the past, if you would divine the future”                                          ~Confucius


History tells us that experience is a great teacher. You can learn a lot from what you have undergone in the past. You can also learn, probably a bit faster, by observing what others have experienced in the past.

We all see the world through different eyes. Our individual thoughts and actions direct how we interpret, respond or are responded to in various situations in the past and these guide us to how we behave and react in the present. We need to be aware of the factors that influence our past actions and thoughts and then use the insights and understanding thus obtained to inspire and impact our current actions.

Zen philosophy advises us to always experience life as a beginner i.e. treat every experience as a new one. But this does not mean we reject or ignore our older experiences – it means we should use them as the instruments that help us act and react in the present and in the decisions we take in the present.

Potent tool for understanding

Contemplation is a very potent tool for understanding and learning from former events and when we do it objectively and purposefully it becomes even more powerful.  Try and identify what unconsciously makes you act the way you do. Learn from what has happened before and think over the choices you made – Why did you do that? What made you do one thing but not the other? Did you learn anything from a poor decision taken on a similar issue? What advice will you give someone facing the same dilemma you did previously?

If you do exactly what you did before, you will have a bad outcome again. So see how you can use the failure of your past decision to help you take a correct decision now. Stand back and examine things impartially, without prejudice or bias and you will be able to figure out a more effective way to do the same thing.

Tackle the new challenges

When you decide to start a new enterprise or business or project – in order to succeed you need preparation, determination, hard work, ambition, drive, financial support etc. But if you observe your past, you will see how your earlier work and experiences have prepared you to tackle the new challenges ahead of you. Experiences – both good and bad – can lead you to become great businessmen or leaders. Identify what you have learned – what worked, what did not. Bring back memories that help you improve.

Share your understandings with others so that both you and others around you can learn about what can be repeated and what needs to be avoided in order to arrive at a desirably outcome.

We are a sum total of all our experiences. Our perceptions, attitudes, thoughts all derive from what we have gone through. Learn from your past experiences but do not hold onto them. Let them go once you have extracted your learnings from them. Embrace the present fully for it is what you do today that shapes your tomorrow.