Two Signs You’re Trying to Live Up to Your Past… and What to Do Now

Jan 17, 2023
I was recently on a call with a coaching client who said to me, “I just can’t clear my schedule anymore than I already do.”
She was feeling incredibly overwhelmed with all the happenings of her life:
  • holding down a management role in her career
  • taking care of her household;
  • navigating tough conversations with her spouse;
  • emotionally supporting her young adult daughter through a quarter-life crisis;
  • Illness of a pet;
  • Inflammation and discomfort in her own body, etc.
Any of those feel familiar to you? 
Sure, your circumstances won’t be identical to hers, but chances are your emotions may be.
I pointed out to her that there was a common theme I was noticing: 
She desires to fulfill expectations she once had of herself.
But here was the larger issue:
These expectations were not set recently.
These expectations were set for her by her many years ago.
So today, I want to highlight for you two signs that you are trying to live up to your past.

#1: What used to work no longer works for you.
The initial sign that you’re living up to your past is nothing seems to work the way it used to.
My client, for example, mentioned that clearing her schedule was an impossibility at this point. She highlighted that the system she once used to navigate tough times is not effective anymore.
In the past, the expectation she held was for her life to feel relatively smooth, simplified, and streamlined. To make that happen, systems, habits and agreements were in place.
There was a system in place to ensure tasks for management were delegated to those who could actually do something supportive to help.
There were habits in place that nourished her body, mind and spirit regularly.
There were agreements in place that supported her in utilizing teamwork to make all the things work, flourish and move ahead.
When any of these things you used to do no longer give you the same result, that’s the first sign you are living up to your past.
Why did those well-intended systems, habits and agreements stop working?
You evolved (and so did the people around you).
This is where I would say, “It’s not you that’s the issue… but it’s you,” but I’ll humor you and flip that to, “It’s not the current you that’s the issue, it’s previous you.”
More on what to do about this in a second.

#2: You more often feel you’re living in a state of survival rather than a state of progress.
For the sake of this sign, let me first set aside that I’m not talking about people who are missing the essential necessities to live, like shelter, food and safety. 
I’m sure you can relate to moments in your life where - although everything seemed to be provided and okay - you felt like you were merely surviving and hanging in there, day in and day out.
What creates the feeling of survival is an inability to follow through on what you expect yourself to get done in a certain time period.
When was the last time you felt your life was moving forward and making progress? 
If it was recent, congratulations! That likely means you are tuned in to your short-term and long-term goals.
If the experience of emotionally surviving is something you are all too familiar with, however, that can be a sign that you are taking actions only to live up to your past.
Who were you the last time you set those expectations of what “progress” looks like and felt like?
If you’re imagining yourself a decade ago, guess what?
You evolved. Those expectations were set by a different version of you. 
Might you still want to accomplish those things? Sure.
But are you clear on why you still want it? Or did the purpose and passion for those goals vanish a long time ago?
Without clarity on why you do what you do, you will perpetuate a feeling of survival, always catching up to and checking the box that was expected of you forever ago.
What should you do if you’re living in survival and nothing works the way it used to?
It’s time to recalibrate… and lucky for you, January of a new year is one of the best times to do this!
Recalibrating looks like…
  1. Identifying your values that are important to you. In other words, what do you want people to know about the type of person you are and the impact you make in the world?
  2. Cleaning house. Look at your surroundings, relationships, belongings, emotional state and physical body. Do these items, people and feelings line up with your values? Would people find it surprising (in a good or bad way) to learn you surround yourself with certain people, places and things?
  3. Shifting your focus from previous you’s expectations to a focus on your values moving forward. You may need to create new habits and systems. You may need to set firmer boundaries in who you spend time with. Keep your eye on what’s ahead and how it lines up with you as you are today.
Working and striving to be like the version of you from the past doesn’t make you wrong.
This is simply an example of self-awareness and a moment of honest recognition where you can reframe and shift your focus to become who you want to be.
What sign did you relate with? Are you ready to recalibrate a part of your life?
I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment and share your thoughts.
Relatable Matters: The Blog is committed to delivering tips, tools, and strategies to help you genuinely (and realistically) understand and relate to those in your organization and your home without sacrificing your well-being or hiding your authentic self.  For more on emotional connection and intelligence in your home and work lives, listen to the "Relatable Matters" podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and most streaming applications.