“The past does not equal the future.” – Tony Robbins
The first time I heard this quote I was 18, driving between home and college during what I now know was one of the worst years of my life. In an effort to cope with the overwhelming emotions from my parent’s divorce, I sought refuge in the infomercial self-help world of Tony Robbins.
It was this quote that started my love and exploration of personal growth and psychology. When you deeply GET the meaning of this quote, it can shift the way you look at change.
Picture something you’ve been trying to change, maybe it’s your diet, exercise, adding a meditation practice (ugh, I STILL can’t seem to do that) drinking less, or quitting something. We all know the change-failure cycle. You start with high hopes, a new strategy, and resolve.
You do well for a while. Then, inevitably you fall off the wagon with a hard smack. Then what? What you do next and whether you get back on the wagon all depends on what that failure means to you. Here’s where it gets interesting.
Many of us allow the failure to rob us of our confidence, slowly eating away at what we believe ourselves to be capable of. “Well if Past Me couldn’t do it, how the hell will Future Me pull this off?” “I clearly can’t do this, so why even keep trying?” “Well I already screwed up my 4 days of no sugar with that donut, I may as well quit.”
This is the moment to dig in and fire this quote to yourself. “The past does not equal the future.” Just because you failed yesterday or even five minutes ago…again…does not mean that you can’t succeed next time, or the next.
What you believe about yourself and your capabilities will determine what is possible for you. If you decide that failure now means you can’t do it, you suck, or you need to feel guilty and ashamed, you will chip away at your confidence and it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Whereas if you instead decide to believe something else. For example, if you believe that that each failure is teaching you something and moving you closer to change, one day you will change.
This holds true whether you’re quitting diet coke or cocaine, starting to exercise or remembering to pick up your clothes. What you did five years ago or five minutes ago has no impact on what you WILL do tomorrow. In every moment lies the opportunity to make a different choice – to live the life that you want to live.
Just repeat this to yourself: “The past does not equal the future.”