Stuck in the Past

Do you have a trophy room?  This is a place where you keep your various trophies, certificates, award plaques, autographed trinkets and other things that remind you of past accomplishments. This could be a fireplace mantle, space on a bookshelf, a downstairs room or a building depending on what you have been up to. If you have one of these, be careful to avoid getting stuck in the past. They tend to have common features – mainly dust.

Watch out because you might be stuck in the past.

Or are you “the expert” in a quickly-changing area like software development and finding yourself no longer being constantly challenged? You too might be stuck in the past and might soon find your career biting the dust.

There is nothing wrong with having a trophy room or being an expert, so long as you don’t let dust become a problem. There is a natural tendency to become comfortable in past accomplishments that we need to be careful to avoid. We need to constantly update our trophy rooms and continue to be actively challenged in our areas of expertise. Here are some ways to avoid getting stuck in the past:

1. Make clear goals. If you don’t have any current goals, there isn’t any place to go.

2. Avoid repetition unless it is working. One popular definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things while expecting different results. There is a catch. If you are doing something and it is working really well, keep doing it. Constantly trying to reinvent the wheel might be another definition of insanity.

3. Celebrate successes and move on. Put your new trophy with the rest while maybe tossing out one or two other ones that don’t have any current meaning. Sometimes the best trophies are the really big ones that you only get to keep for a year or so until the next person wins it. Keep winning it if you can without having to worry about it becoming too dusty because you can’t hold onto it forever.

4. Don’t get too comfortable. Sitting on the sofa mulling over past glories can be a nice thing to do from time to time but don’t let yourself become fat and lazy.

5. Create the right environment. Hang out with different people, read different magazines and visit some new places. After all, isn’t is the people you meet, the things you read and the places you go that help you become who you are?

6. Be competitive to a healthy extent. A competitive winning attitude and the right kind of competition can lead to amazing things. This doesn’t mean you need to be viewing everything as a competition. There is more to life than always trying to outdo everyone else all the time.

7. Try new things in relevant areas. The idea is to not make a wholesale change but to try something a little different.

8. Keep yourself open to new ideas from the usual places and also from places where you would not normally be sourcing them. Old sources are not always the best places to find new ideas.

9. Drop your involvements with people who are holding you back, especially those who are stuck in the past! It might seem a bit nasty disassociating from people you have known for a long time. This doesn’t need to be an abrupt thing. Simply spend more time with those who are better aligned with who you are and where you want to go. This allows you to ease your way out without coming across as being rude. Your new associations might also help inspire some of the others to step up to new challenges.

If you have additional suggestions or comments on how to avoid getting stuck in the past, please feel free to comment and add to the discussion.

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