I recently had a conversation with a mentor of mine, and he said something in the moment that I’ll be honest, I kind of dismissed. But afterwards when I was thinking about and reflecting on what he’d said, I realized he had just dropped a truth bomb that I had missed. So what did he say?
He said, “You know, Sandra, I treat my life like a backpack. Every day I wake up, I pick up my backpack, I put it on my back and I go through my day. As I’m going through my day, I pick up different things, and I put them in my backpack. Then at the end of the day, I take off my backpack, I empty it out, I go to bed. And the next day, I start fresh with a new backpack with an empty backpack.”
I thought, okay, that’s cool, whatever backpacks and whatnot. But it was only when I was reflecting on it afterwards that I realized how profound that is. What a profound way of going through life, because here’s what happens. As he rightly said, every day is a new day. It’s a blank slate, a fresh start. And yet, for many of us, we wake up, and we carry a backpack that has all of the worries of yesterday – all of the concerns, and all of the things that happened. Every day, our backpack gets heavier and heavier, and starts to weigh us down.
So what about if we were to take the backpack approach? What about if we were to wake up every morning, wake up with gratitude, wake up with intention, and then put our backpack on nd go through the day. There are going to be hard things that happen, those are rocks that we have to put in our backpack. These are the bad things that happened, the hard things, the challenges that we all face every single day. There are going to be great things that will happen, the things that make us happy. Maybe you can think of them as flowers that you put inside your backpack. When you get to the end of the day, whether it was rocks or flowers that you put into your backpack, it’s an opportunity for you to let it go and just start fresh the next day.
Unfortunately, so many of us keep picking up the same bad things, and then we keep adding to it. Why do we do that?
I’ve been reading a great book, which I highly recommend. It is called How We Change and 10 Reasons Why We Don’t) by Dr. Ross Ellenhorn. One of the reasons he says we don’t change is because sometimes we build what he calls ‘memorials’ to events. When something happens to us, particularly a hard thing or a challenging thing, and it almost feels like when we forgive that thing, when we let go of that memory of the bad thing that happened to us, that in some way we’re accepting it. We’re saying it was okay for it to happen, or we’re negating the fact that it happened. But the reality is that the past only exists in your mind, the past is only a memory. You can choose whether you want to keep living that memory, revisiting that memory, constantly bring up that memory, or you can make peace with it and let it go.
I remember reading a quote from Oprah Winfrey. She said something along the lines of ‘Forgiveness is not about you absolving the other person of what they did to you. It’s about you allowing yourself to move on. It’s about you freeing yourself from the hold of whatever was done to you.’ Often times, we feel like if Ilet this thing go, then I’m saying that this hurt, this anguish, this pain that was caused to me by this person, that I’m making it okay, by me letting it go. I’m absolving them. But the reality is you’re freeing yourself. You’re emptying your backpack. You’re taking the rocks out of your backpack that are weighing you down on a daily basis.
Sometimes the rocks that we put in our backpack are things that we’ve done, things that we feel guilt and shame about. We keep reliving those. We live in a world of ‘I wish I could have / should have…’ But again, the past only lives in your mind. It only exists in your mind, and perhaps the greatest gift that you can give yourself is to forgive yourself. Do as Maya Angelou said, when you knew better, you did better. Use that instead of using whatever it is that you did in the past that you’re holding on to, to continually beat yourself up. Maybe use it as a growing lesson, an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to know what not to do the next time.
The same applies for things that we consider the flowers. Maybe we put in our backpacks – the happy moments. We can get stuck staying in the past on happy moments where we just want to live in the past. This causes us to never fully be in the present. We’re living in a memory, the past that only exists in your mind.
The same is with regards to the future. It doesn’t exist. It only exists in your mind. You’re creating your future in this moment with what you do.
As we go through our day, our week, our month, our year, let’s think about the things that we need to empty from our backpack. What are the things that I need to let go? What are the things that I keep picking up every single day that are weighing me down, that don’t allow me to fly, that don’t allow me to become the very best version of myself?
And so, as I reflected on what my mentor had said to me, I thought that it’s actually really a powerful way to go through life – letting go. Letting go of the past, because the past doesn’t exist anymore. You can’t change anything that has already happened, you can only choose to learn from it. You can choose to grow, and not be projecting into the future and just living in the future, but truly being here in the now.
So What do you need to empty from your backpack today?
Sandra has a podcast episode on this topic in the WORTHY Podcast:
You can also watch it on YouTube: