Making the Best of the Rest of Your Life

Do you believe it is too late to have what you want from life? Do you think you are not smart enough, or there’s too much competition? Do you put off making new choices because you are afraid you will be disappointed again?  If so, you are choosing to believe you can’t learn from the past.

What the Past Can Teach You

The past no longer exists, except in your memories. Yet these memories are a storehouse of information you can use to improve your life, and the lives of others. Taking the time to examine the consequences of choices will show you the thread that runs through your life, and the lives of those who had the most impact on you.

As an example, think of a time when you made a big change. Did you get a job, start a business, move to a strange place, get married or have a child? After this change did some people leave your life, or did you leave them? Did you attract new people who reflected the change you made?  In what way were you better than you were before?

The more conscious you are about a change you make the more likely your attitude is positive and cooperative. Although any change can be disruptive, you are able to tolerate discomfort because it is part of the process of getting to where you want to go.

In other cases, change is thrust upon you, seemingly from out of nowhere. You may feel upset, angry and scared, as though you are at the mercy of outside forces. You hold on to what or who is leaving your life with all your might, doing everything you can to stop the change, which prolongs the pain.

Pain is a normal reaction to loss of what is important to you. The stages of grief must be experienced to reach the final stage: acceptance of the loss.

But let’s say you believe you do not deserve to have a more fulfilling life, an assumption reinforced by the confining circumstances in your life. Then along comes a person or event that breaks you free from the chains that bind you.

The amount of resistance you have to the loss indicates how unconscious you are about wanting to be free from the restraints that keep you stuck in the past. Later–sometimes years later–you realize the freedom loving part of you set the change in motion.

Life is a Struggle, Until It Isn’t

Like a good novel, your life presents the problem you are here to solve if you are to make the most of life’s journey. Literature and myth describe the hero and heroine’s struggle with themselves, as opposed to adventure novels, which focus on the challenge of outside forces.

The main character becomes more self-aware as she wrestles with the conflict between the desire to become an individual and the need to fit in with the group, the first group being her family. Then she is faced with her need for acceptance from peers and authority figures. Will she give in to pressure to conform, or will she do her own thinking?

Since fear of being alone, lonely and ostracized is a primal fear, it takes courage to turn inward for the solution to life’s challenges. What if there’s nobody there? What if I lose everything I hold dear?


If you quiet down long enough you will hear a voice beneath the clamor that tells you what to do and not do. But doubt often dismisses the wisdom of instinct.

Learning to trust instinct helps you gain control over the forces that pull you in different directions: what your conditioned mind says versus what you know is right for you. Resisting pressure is how you develop a strong sense of self.

Giving in to pressure is not always a sign there is something wrong with you; it is how you come to terms with the balancing act between the dark and light aspects of your personality.

Over time, the choices you make define who and what you want to be, given the talent and resources at your disposal. This is the gift and the challenge of free will: it’s up to you.

As John Milton said in Aereopagetica, his (1644) pamphlet that argued against censorship: virtue unchosen is not virtue; only by succumbing to and then rejecting evil do we become truly virtuous.

Or as I said to a likable, but philandering client, get a job on one of those love boats. Once you get your fear of commitment out of your system maybe you’ll see the value of monogamy.

And that is just what Jack did. He sent postcards to me from all over the world the next several months describing his ports of call. Two years later he was done with superficiality.

“I kept hoping a woman of substance would come on board,” Jack said when we met again. “And then I’d think about what you’d say: ‘Why would a woman like that be interested in you?’ I’ve had enough of youth, it’s time to grow up.”

Achievement Is Based on What You Are Willing to Ignore

As Jack learned, failure means you have yet to get to the root of what holds you back, such as guilt that needs to be understood so you can move forward.  You may need professional help to forgive yourself for being human. You will definitely need to ignore distractions, meaningless activities that waste your time and energy.

Signs you are distracted can be recurring dreams where you are driving a car and you get lost. Or you are the passenger in a vehicle whose driver does not know where he is going. In other dreams, you race to the airport only to discover the airplane took off an hour earlier, and then you can’t find your purse.

Your subconscious is telling you to stop giving your power to others. This could be a person close to you, or your own negative voice.

For example, you need to be alone so you can think through a problem, but the “voice” says you will miss out on something, or the extroverts in your life will think you are anti-social. To quiet the critic you take on more than you can handle, and then feel exhausted.

Perhaps a family member is deceiving you through manipulation to get what he or she wants. The consequences range from painful to catastrophic, emotionally and financially. Until you decide to take control of your life, you’ll have off-track dreams.

Freedom From the Past

Freedom from the past is achieved by going through fear of the unknown, not by denying or avoiding what scares you.

In Jack’s case, he was afraid he couldn’t hold his own in a committed relationship, that he’d allow himself to be dominated as he’d done in the past, so he flitted from one woman to another. Observing the same behavior in the women who came on board the cruise ship helped Jack to make a braver choice.

Think of a time when you were afraid and you took action anyway. What gave you the courage to go through this fear? What was the outcome? What do you fear now? If you take the action that scares you, the chances are you will have a dream where you reach a beautiful destination.

Nancy Anderson is a career and life consultant based in the Sacramento/San Francisco Bay Area. She is also the author of the best selling career guide, Work with Passion, How to do What You Love For a Living, and Work with Passion in Midlife and Beyond, Reach Your Full Potential and Make the Money You Need. Nancy’s website is

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