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Empowering the Past

4 Powerful ways to make 2017 your best year ever.

photo from pixabay
Source: photo from pixabay

“History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.” -Napoleon Bonaparte

We are into the new year, and I see many people still eagerly setting their goals for the future. Goal setting is a great practice and, when you do it correctly, it can help you stay focused and tap the energy you need to follow through on what you want to be, do and have.

But before you jump further into 2017, how about creating a great relationship with 2016?

This past year—and all the years of your past—can either be a strong foundation for all you desire in the new year or an anchor that holds you back. Your past can either empower you or defeat you before you even start. It has nothing to do with the facts of your past. It has everything to do with how you relate to it. Here are a few suggestions to create a great relationship with 2016:

Reframe it: My dad used to say, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” He didn’t mean that we could change the facts of our childhood. He meant that we could choose a different perspective on it.

One of the basics of the Neuro Linguistic programming (NLP) I teach is that what we perceive to be happening is really just our interpretation of what’s happening. Something happens and we give it a certain meaning. Then we make decisions and draw conclusions based on that interpretation. But the interpretation we gave what happened isn’t the only possible interpretation.

For example, say you were brought up in a military family and moved around a lot. You could interpret that experience as uncomfortable and unsettling. You could conclude that not staying in one place meant you could never have close friends. Or you could interpret moving around a lot as an adventure that exposed you to people and places you would have missed by staying in one town.

To make your past year a more empowering one, take a look at the stories you tell about it, paying special attention to your interpretations. Do they make you feel stronger, more capable, freer? Or do they undermine your confidence, make you feel unworthy or incapable? Now take those dis-empowering stories and rewrite them. How could you see what happened differently? For example, instead of “I got rejected by a bunch of customers,” reframe the story as “I eliminated several customers who weren’t ready for my product.”

Find the Gifts and Learnings of it: Every experience has something to teach us. I think most people would have to admit that it’s the tough, uncomfortable experiences that teach us the most and have the biggest gifts. How often have you heard people dealing with a serious diagnosis say that the illness taught them extraordinary lessons about what life is really all about? Your tough times had lessons as well.

As you review the past year, take each memory and pause to acknowledge the gift. Say you were fired or laid off, what did you learn about yourself in that experience? If you didn’t handle it well, how would you prefer to handle something like that in the future? Did being unemployed help you reassess what you’re doing? Did it open new possibilities for you?

By the way, learnings and gifts are always positive and life-affirming. You’ve missed the point if you think the lesson is, “Bosses can’t be trusted and I’ll always get screwed.” Even if the positive gift and learning isn’t obvious yet, assume that there is one for you. What do you think it could be?

Forgive it: I’m just finishing up a book on Ho’oponopono, the ancient Hawaiian practice of forgiveness. I have seen Ho’oponopono actually save lives and heal deep wounds. For me, it’s become a daily practice. Forgiveness keeps my relationships with others clear, honest and open. It helps me stay aligned with who I am and what I’m about.

Lack of forgiveness is like gunk running through a fuel system. It clogs the flow and eventually destroys the engine. Can’t you feel it in your own system? When you withhold unforgiveness, the bitterness, anger and resentment build up and poison you emotionally and even physically. And when you withhold your apologies for something you’ve done or said, doesn’t the guilt and remorse eat away at you? You just can’t feel right with yourself.

As you think about the past year, what or who do you need to forgive? What do you need to ask forgiveness for? You’re not necessarily looking for big transgressions. Even the smallest injuries can keep you from feeling aligned with yourself. I personally like Ho’oponopono but you can find many forms of forgiveness. Find one that feels right to you.

Be Grateful for it: No matter what happened for you, find things to be grateful for. Be grateful for whatever level of health you have and be grateful for whatever power you to make yourself healthier. Be grateful for your family and friends, especially the difficult ones who offer opportunities to become more patient or make you stand up for yourself or see life from a different perspective. Be grateful for what you have today. If your goal is to have more, great—but make sure you appreciate what you have now.

Be grateful for who you’ve become and, if you don’t like who you’ve become, be grateful that you have the power to change. Be grateful for everything that has brought you to this point on your path. Appreciate yourself for all the great things you did: the times you stretched beyond comfort zones, the big and small steps you took toward your goals, the support you gave to others. Pat yourself for those failures that taught you something.

This year, don’t just settle for “ringing out the old.” Reframe it, find its gifts and learnings, forgive it and feel grateful for it. If you do, it will become your springboard into your happiest 2017.

“The past is not dead, it is living in us, and will be alive in the future which we are now helping to make.”

—William Morris

To your TOTAL empowerment!


Dr. Matt


Byline: Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, the world's leading integrative personal development company for over 30 years. Author of several books, Dr. Matt has trained thousands of students towards excellent health and personal empowerment using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna, and Mental Emotional Release® (MER®) therapy. Online courses are now available Stay connected with Dr. Matt on Facebook or visit his blog at

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