Are you living in your head? How much of your day is spent stuck in the past, thinking about your mistakes and what you should of, would of and could of done? I’ve got tough news for you. You will never reach your full potential until you quit living in the past and focus on the present actions of today.
Ruminating and obsessive thinking of past mistakes will stunt your potential in your personal life, career and relationship—maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but in the long run.
Constantly thinking about the past is an endless trap and, if you stay there for too long, you’re on the path toward misery. In today’s article, I want to share the lessons I’ve learned along the way and approaches you can use to quit ruminating over mistakes and move forward in your life to a brighter future.
What is Rumination and Is It Screwing You Over?
It’s not a buzzword—it’s a scientific phenomenon. One report in Innovation in Clinical Neuroscience defines rumination as a “form of perseverative cognition that focuses on negative content, generally past and present, and results in emotional distress.”
Rumination is about being stuck in the past.
Sure, time is still moving forward, but your brain has hit the pause and the replay button over and over. You messed up—and now your mind wants you to rewatch your failures on repeat. Are you still watching?
From an evolutionary standpoint, you have to learn from your mistakes.
Back in hunter-gatherer times, if you didn’t see a rival tribe coming your way, weapons in hand, you’d lose an arm, a leg, or your life. If you survived, you’d sure as hell ruminate on your colossal mistake. You’d have to so you’d survive.
Fast-forward 12,000 years and this instinct is overdone. Screwing up at work or in your love life is not a life or death scenario. Getting a speeding ticket happens. Saying something that offended someone at a social dinner is apart of being an authentic human. Showing up late to an appointment is no reason to speed and run red lights.
Yes, mistakes hurt. They happen, it’s apart of the game of life, yet you can learn from these mistakes and move on to keep playing the game. The game does not have to pause indefinitely for weeks, months or years ruminating on the past. Take the lesson and hit play.
Obsessing Over the Past Destroys Your Chances of Success
“We are dying from overthinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything.” — Anthony Hopkins
Humans are wired to make mistakes. It’s how we learn, grow, develop and, ultimately, move forward with our lives. But what if there’s a glitch in the system?
We all find ourselves ruminating on the past. But it screws everything up.
Scenario 1: Your girlfriend up and leaves you without a word of warning. You come home, she’s packed her bags, and she’s out of the door.
How do you spend the next few months? Do you get up and get on with your life—maybe even start dating? Or, do you spend months or even years thinking about what went wrong in the relationship?
If you’re guilty of thinking about her long after she’s gone, you’re ruminating. You’ve let her win. She’s living in your head rent-free and stopping you from getting on with your life and finding new love.
You haven’t got a chance in hell of meeting someone new because you’re still mentally with her. And even if—by some miracle—you do meet someone, you’ll be too distracted and emotionally unavailable.
Guess what happens next? You end up alone, stressed, and depressed. And now ruminating over what went wrong with her.
Scenario 2: You try to start a business… but it fails. It happens. 20% of small businesses fail within the first year. You put your blood, sweat, and tears into trying to get this endeavor off the ground.
You gave up your free time, your savings, and your relationships for more than a year and it all amounted to a big fat nothing. Less than nothing.
What happens next? Do you move on and find a job? Or, on the other hand, do you sink into a deep depression and never try again? Ruminating can make you feel stuck, crush your confidence and self worth as you keep stabbing yourself with the mistakes of yesterday.
You start to believe that you are your mistakes; that they define who you are.
The result: You waste time and miss out on opportunities all around you that would advance your life and career forward.
The short answer is that rumination is a sure-fire way to ruin your love life and your career. I’ve been there; fixating on the past and never moving forward in my life.
But, unless you have a time machine in your garage, you can’t change the past, but you can learn from it and become stronger.
What Does Rumination Look Like: Typical Examples of Extreme Overthinking Behavior
“No amount of anxiety makes any difference to anything that is going to happen.” — Alan Watts
Rumination is toxic. It infiltrates your thoughts and keeps you stuck.
The worst part is that you might not even know that you are ruminating. This issue can often look like everyday thinking that could be beneficial… but it’s not. Here are some examples of it:
1. You never let yourself forget how you messed up and it stops you from trying again
You screwed something up, badly. And now your brain is making you pay the price.
Let’s say you failed a job interview. It sucks, but we’ve all been there. After the hiring manager has told you it’s a ‘no’ from them, your brain goes into overdrive.
You don’t apply for new jobs. You sit in your room, thinking about all the ways that you could have been better at the interview. You emotionally beat yourself up.
Instead, of applying for new jobs and learning from your mistakes. You stay still, paralyzed by the failure.
2. Your internal monologue is telling a negative story where you’re the villain or even victim
“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” — Don Draper, Mad Men
We all have an internal monologue… It’s that voice inside your head that’s reading this sentence.
Can you hear it now? What story do you tell yourself about yourself? Do you cast yourself as the hero, victim, or villain of your own imagination?
If you’re the bad guy in your own story, that’s a giant red flag.
Chances are, you’re engaging in negative self-talk which is a part of rumination. Not only does this problem lead to low self-esteem, but it could also mess up your performance.
One study suggests that dart players perform better when they use positive self-talk (i.e. thinking about how great they are!) as opposed to negative self-talk (i.e. thinking that they are awful at darts).
Whenever you find yourself thinking negatively about you, stop. You—and only you—have the power to change the narrative which will dictate the outcome.
3. You obsess over a problem 24/7 and never take action to solve it
We all have problems.
You might be struggling with your finances. You might be worried about a big presentation at work. You might want to land a date with that girl at the gym but never have the guts to approach her.
Whatever is stressing you, how do you deal with it?
Stressing and obsessing about every plausible outcome is a guaranteed way to fail. You should use your mind to act and solve the problem swiftly instead of being suck in your head trying to avoid a mistake that has not even happened yet.
Instead, it’s spiraling through all the things you could do and you never land on what you should do. A confused mind will always say no and do nothing.
How to Quit Obsessing Over the Past and Work Toward Ultimate Success
“Thinking too much leads to paralysis by analysis. It’s important to think things through, but many use thinking as a means of avoiding action.”— Robert Herjavec
Rumination will hinder your productivity, risk taking ability and boldness at work. Self-doubt and worries will hold you back and stop you reaching your full potential.
Learning to harness your masculine power and become the high-achieving man you deserve to be takes time. In my expert coaching, I teach strategies used by millionaires, celebrity icons, Olympians, and performers to foster growth, success and fulfillment.
The most effective approach here is to stop ruminating on your past, find the lessons and look toward the future. I want to share some of the strategies you can apply to your professional life.
1. Overwhelm your distracted mind with positive actions
“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep.” — Dale Carnegie
Stuck thinking about that presentation that went poorly? Let’s say you’re sitting at home, staring into space, picturing how Mark from finance smirked when you got it all wrong.
Okay. Stop. It’s time to get up and do something else. Whenever you catch yourself in the middle of a negative spiral, you need to pull yourself out of it by any means possible with a positive action.
Replace distraction with positive actions that build momentum is one of the best strategies you can use here. Learn how you could have done better. Read, buy courses, workshops and attend seminars. After you spend some time on the mistake, gather the lesson, that’s it, that’s the key lesson and identify what the positive actions are you can take to improve.
2. Create a vision of your professional future and move toward it every single day
Rumination tricks you into focusing too much time and energy on the past which takes away valuable time away from what you can be doing today.
Where do you see yourself in three to five years? You should have a vision of how you want your career to go.
After all, if you don’t know what you want, how on earth will you get there?
Set your aspirations and goals high, and then start working toward them. This will give you a north star that you are working toward vs living in the past. It will also make the mistakes of the past seem so small in comparison to the big goals you set for yourself.
However, you can take small steps toward improving your results and opportunities at success. Start by creating a big vision and then break it down into stages. And focus more on that vs ruminating and obsessing over petty mistakes of yesterday that keep you stuck.
3. Get outside, ditch the screens and get out of your head for a while
“Step outside for a while; calm your mind. It is better to hug a tree than to bang your head against a wall continually.” — Rasheed Ogunlaru
Never underestimate the power of nature. The great outdoors isn’t just the backdrop for hikes and wilderness treks. Getting outside is scientifically proven to help your mindset and put you in a more positive mood.
Spending time in nature reduces your stress levels, according to research from Cornell University. Whenever you find yourself in a ruminating headspace, take the time to get outside and explore the world around you. Leave your smartphone on your desk—emails can wait.
4. Try meditating when the stress of work gets too much to handle
Meditation is often touted as the holy grail of mental wellness.
While you might be tired of hearing how it can solve all your problems, it works. Engaging in mindfulness means you can take control of your thoughts and make your mind work for you.
Before you head off to the daily grind, consider meditating for 15 minutes in the morning. Some of the world’s leading CEOs and celebrities—including Jeff Weiner, Paul McCartney, and William Clay Ford Jr.— swear by this strategy.
Research suggests that mindful meditation stops ruminating thoughts by “shifting” your attention to what is most important and giving you more clarity. Add it to your daily schedule.
How to Stop Ruminating About Failed Relationships and Move Forward in Your Romantic Relationships
“Don’t overthink things. Sometimes you can convince your head not to listen to your heart. Those are the decisions you regret for the rest of your life.” — Leah Braemel
Finding a girlfriend or wife who will respect and fulfill you isn’t always a walk in the park. Sure, there’s plenty of fish in the sea but not all of them will match your palate.
Breakups happen. Marriages end. She might cheat on you with your best friend at your 35th birthday party. She might realize that she’s a lesbian and leave you for her co-worker.
Whatever the cause, when your relationship is over, it’s gonna hurt like hell. We’re told that men aren’t supposed to feel that emotion but that’s pure nonsense.
In fact, research suggests that men feel more emotional pain and it last longer as a result of breakups than women.
The key is to move forward and avoid ruminating on your failed relationship. Here are some of the approaches I’d recommend you use for the future.
1. Understand what things trigger you to ruminate and then eliminate them from your daily life
Post-breakup, you’ll have plenty of triggers. You could be at the grocery store buying food, and feel a surge of emotion when you buy a ‘meal for one’. You might be scrolling through social media and see a picture of your ex drinking wine and laughing with her friends.
Here’s the problem: triggers and emotional responses fuel rumination. Notice them. Catch them. And eliminate them.
For example, if you know that you’re triggered when you see her face on social media, unfollow her pronto. Taking these measures will protect yourself and allow you to move forward without thinking about the failed relationship 20 times a day which prevents you from moving forward.
2. Learn to accept that not all relationships work out, no matter how hard you might fight for them
Acceptance is the ultimate weapon against rumination. When you’re stuck in a negative thought cycle, you will be thinking about all the ways you want to change the past. However, learning to accept that the relationship is over and you likely did the best you could given where you were at in life will change your outlook.
You may have fought hard for things to work out—perhaps you tried date nights and spending more quality time together. It doesn’t matter. Some couples are incompatible. Of course you should try to save the relationship and not give up too easily, but after both of you have put in effort it’s clear you need to cut your losses and move forward.
3. Don’t let past rejection knock your confidence and ruin your chances with women
“When you’ve had a life of overthinking, you have the same reaction time and time again. Shyness becomes habitual.”— Joel Annesley
It’s time to get back on the horse and keep riding. Rumination has the nasty side effect of knocking your confidence… which has the even nastier side effect of making you feel unattractive. This will reduce your self image and you will appear that way to others when you meet new women which will come off as a big turn off.
Your relationship breaking down is not all about what you did wrong. It takes two to be in a relationship and she equally contributed to the end of that relationship. You alone could not save the relationship. Keep that in mind as you move forward.
It will help you to get back out there, enter the dating market from a more attractive frame, and meet new potential partners.
The Takeaway: The Only Way is Forward
Stop living in the past. Be a grounded man and the strongest version of yourself. Start taking control of your present and future today.
Rumination has the potential to mess up your life. Utilize my approaches to avoid this problem and learn how to become a better version of yourself. While the strategies take time and practice, the sooner you apply them, the sooner you will start getting the results you need in your career and relationships with women.
Why not learn more about the work that I do with men now? Having a team of coaches behind you gives an unfair advantage over the competition. In my coaching, I offer proven strategies to help men become stronger grounded men and create the life and relationships they want.
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