“None of us can change our yesterdays, but all of us can change our tomorrows.”
~Colin Powell

I was talking with a new coaching client the other day. He was telling me a bit more about his childhood and some of the painful things that happened to him.

I have learned – through my own journey and from the honor and privilege I have to walk beside my clients on their journeys – that, while I am not a therapist and while coaching is definitely not therapy, the challenges we experience when we are young can, and generally do, affect the way we show up in the world as adults. It is always helpful for me to hear my clients’ stories, so that I can help them notice – and shift – the stories they’re telling themselves now.

That said, while we may be affected by our childhood challenges, we are not defined by them. Or at least we don’t have to be. We have a choice. We can, as Colin Powell says, change our tomorrows.

It is, in my experience, important to know and understand our yesterdays. To be able to identify when we’re caught in past habits and beliefs and when we’re acting out old behaviors. It is also, in my experience, important to know when we’re trying to change our yesterdays, because Colin Powell is right about that too. We can’t.

I will let clients call out the realities and shortcomings of their yesterdays. I will be with them as they grieve their losses and feel their pain. I will even let them vent about their current circumstances. But there comes a point when I will most likely say, “do you want to keep acting that out, or do you want to do something differently?”

I will, hopefully, help them and support them to change their tomorrows.

I will, like I did with my client, offer three practices I’ve adopted that have helped me change my tomorrows…and my todays.

  • “That’s the ____ talking!” – you may know part of my history. I was raised in what I would call (and most would call) a cult. (Lisa’s memoir, to the moon and back.) It affects the way my brain works to this day. I have learned to call out my most “stinking thinking” – my self-destructive and self-limiting thoughts – with this sentence: “That’s the cult talking.” I offer it to my clients. All they have to do is learn to see and say, “that’s the ____ talking.” This manages to put space between them and the thoughts that are getting in their way.
  • What makes you smile? – I ask my clients to make a list of what makes them smile, or used to make them smile. When we smile, we think we’re happy. We feel happier. Make a list of what makes you smile, and then go out of your way to have those things in your life and your days.
  • Put your hand on your heart – I’m sure I’ve shared this here before, and it’s not my invention. Years ago, I heard Tara Brach recommend putting a hand on our heart when we feel distressed, and to say to ourselves “it’s okay, sweetheart!” It may sound a bit cheesy, but it always soothes me and gives me whatever I need in that moment to be, show up, and lead as my best.

Colin Powell is right, we can’t change our yesterdays, but we can change our tomorrows. And a great first step is to become more aware of our yesterdays and then to load up our “toolkit” with practices, approaches, and action steps that soothe us, give us what we need, and help us show up as we want to.

How have you changed your tomorrows?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in changing your tomorrows, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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