Do you realize that much of our fear of the future is based on our past experiences? Think about that and then consider how ridiculous that is. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we develop an unhealthy fear of taking risks.

Imagine if a baby decided after one failed attempt at walking that the effort “just wasn’t worth it”. That child would never know the benefits of walking or running and all the joys that mobility can bring. Could you picture a 35 year-old man crawling to work everyday because he just never bothered learning to walk? NO! That is because babies have this innate tenacity that propels them forward even when accomplishing the task seems daunting. They don’t give up until they have mastered their latest challenge.

Take note, that as parents, we ENCOURAGE our children to succeed at walking and talking. Perhaps this is the absent factor in much of our lack of success as adults: as we grow and develop, encouragement turns to criticism, much of it negative. Over time negative programming gets in our way. Whereas when we were children we thought, “Mom and Dad can walk, then so can I. I’ll just keep trying until I can do it too”, now we think, “Jim tried this and failed. What makes me think that I can succeed? I had better not try, because I don’t want to look stupid.”

Dr. Laura Schlessinger has said, “Failure is not a person; it is an event.” This is so true, isn’t it! We tend to believe that because we tried something once and failed, then we are doomed to failure from here to eternity. I remember one of my clients who was struggling with the idea of using more assertive behaviour. I encouraged her to use what she had been learning in the classroom with someone safe, whom she could trust. She returned the following week and announced, “Well, I tried being assertive with my husband and he just laughed at me. It doesn’t work!” Isn’t that just the way we are sometimes? We just throw our hands up and give in after the first (and usually half-hearted) attempt at success.

Anthony Robbins suggests that we tend to stay away from a thing because of fear of failure (pain) until the pain of NOT DOING the thing is greater than the pain of the FEAR. This notion stems from Freud’s pain/pleasure principle – that we will always do more to avoid pain than we will to attain pleasure. This explains why for a time after a breakup people will shy away from relationships. They fear the pain of being hurt again. Eventually the pain of being alone overtakes the pain of “What if I get hurt?”, so they take a risk and try again with someone new. This cycle is long, arduous, and unnecessary. By coming to the realization that failure is just an event that does not determine who you are, you will be more able to readily dismiss the events of the past so that you can take on the challenges of the future.

Now back to my client who thought assertiveness was useless… I encouraged her to continue using her assertiveness skills, and to be persistent. She kept using assertive language and behaviour in a setting that was safe for her until she grew confident enough that she could use them in the “real world”. What do you think she discovered about assertiveness? It does indeed work! She, like a wobbly toddler, needed to keep plugging away at it until she mastered the skill. It is that simple. The events of the past do not have to overshadow our decisions about the future.

That is not to say we should not try to anticipate what may come our way in the future, and prepare for those contingencies in advance; however, releasing the guilt and unresolved feelings of the past will enable us to move ahead into the future with less FEAR.

In their amazing book, The Aladdin Factor, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen call FEAR, False Evidence Appearing Real. In other words, those things we fear are for the most part, unlikely events, specters raised by the ghosts of our past, whose goal is to cripple us emotionally and motivationally. Realizing that fear is simply an emotion based on past failures and negative experiences – not actual present-based reality – is imperative for getting past the past and moving on into the future.

To learn more about how to get past your past, please visit: to purchase your copy of Getting Past Your Past by Julie A. Christiansen, M.A. The 2 CD set comes with a hard-cover spiral bound workbook with exercises accompanying the audio. $49.95 +GST.

Julie Christiansen