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How to Stop Living in the Past and be Happier at Work

How to stop living in the past and be happier at work

Did you know that the average person spends over 90,000 hours of their lifetime working? This makes up around a third of your life. Your work life is very likely to affect your personal life and vice versa.

When entrepreneurs enter the world of business, it is often not quite what they expected. The same goes for professionals and employees, as well as people who are changing careers. When things are not really what you expected them to be, you can get stuck living in the past and not make the most of the opportunities surrounding you. That is why it is so important to prioritise living in the present, whether it is at work or in your personal life.

In this article, we have a look at ways in which you could stop living in the past and become happier at work.

Living in the past: university/ school

Most people in the working world have had some form of education…and you know what they say…school is the best time of your life. Entering the working world, you have far more responsibilities and have to make a lot more important decisions than you had to at school. School is all about absorbing knowledge, and the working world is all about applying this knowledge.

It can definitely be a great adjustment, but it would help you to focus on the advantages of this new stage of your life, such as meeting new people, making money, becoming more responsible etc.

Living in the past: pre-covid

There are many business owners who are probably still in denial about the COVID-19 pandemic and are in a way living in the past, in a pre-covid time where business was relatively straightforward. Now there are many new regulations, drastic changes in demand, and hundreds of hoops to jump through. The industries that were most affected were definitely the travel, hospitality, and entertainment industries. So yes, things may have been easier for many entrepreneurs before COVID-19.

But instead of living in a pre-covid timeframe, it is important to get with the times and start adapting in every way you can so that your business can come out stronger on the other side. Inform yourself of all new industry regulations and ensure that you are compliant. It’s time to start making use of the opportunities that the present and the future have to offer you.

Living in the past: personal life

Like we have already mentioned, your personal life can greatly affect your work life. If your personal past still has you in its clutches, you may find it very difficult to concentrate at work and look forward to the future. You may feel as if you have already experienced the best years of your personal life, but the truth is that while you are alive, you still have opportunities to find joy within your personal life.

Issues within your personal life can be very difficult and complex. There is often no clear cut way to fix issues in your personal life, and dealing with things like divorce and grief can take years to get over. But even if it feels like it is impossible, you should try to stop living in the past when it comes to your personal life and reclaim your life by living in the present.

Why living in the present is so important

Sometimes living in the past can feel comforting. And if, in your opinion, your past was better than your present, then why would you want to stop living in it?

Time moves on

The past is over, and the present is here. Living in the past is completely futile to both your present and your future. The thing about time is that it never stops moving forward, it just keeps marching on, and you need to keep up with it if you don’t want to get left behind.

Make use of opportunities

There are always opportunities surrounding you, and as an entrepreneur, it is very important that you are fully aware of the opportunities surrounding you if you want to propel your business forward. When you live in the present moment, you are aware of what is happening around you, and therefore you are aware of the opportunities that are available to you. If you’re living in the past, you may be completely oblivious to the opportunities passing you by.

Connect with others

Connecting with others is a very important part of your personal and work life. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who isn’t fully present? It can be very frustrating, and feel as if the conversation is not important to them.

In order for you to connect with your family, friends, potential clients, colleagues and employees, you’ll need to practice living in the present moment. Human connection is one of the biggest joys in life!

Get the most out of life

It may sound cliche, but you only have one life, and by living in the present, you’ll get the most out of what your life has to offer you. Surely everyone wants to make the most out of their one shot at life and be as fulfilled as possible in every facet.

Ways to stop living in the past and focus on the present

It can be very difficult to break free from living in the past, especially if you have been living in the past for quite some time. But some techniques that you can use and ideas that you can focus on include:

Heal from your pain

The reason why so many people live in the past is that they have experienced some sort of trauma or pain. The only way that you can move forward and start living in the present is if you heal from this pain, whether it be through self-reflection or through professional help.

Learn from your experiences

Perhaps you made some mistakes in the past, and you play them over and over again in your head, thus living in the past. Instead of replaying these past mistakes, you need to forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes, and start moving forward with your life. Sometimes mistakes can be the very best way to learn.

Stop daydreaming and look around you!

If you experienced something really wonderful in your past, it can be easy to get caught up in daydreams about these experiences. But if you are stuck in a daydream, you are not going to know what is happening around you. It is time to wake up and smell the roses!

Make friends

We have already mentioned that human connection is one of the biggest joys in life. If you are living in the past and feel like your current life is somewhat meaningless, one of the best things you can do is make friends and connect with other people. There is nothing like a funny moment or a deep conversation to bring you back to the present moment.

Show initiative and get involved

Live out some of your ideas and show initiative by starting new projects, getting involved with the things that are happening around you and show some initiative when it comes to what is going on in your life. Getting things done is up to you. If you are an adult, no one is going to be doing anything for you.

Find things to look forward to

If you battle to live in the present, living in the future is definitely better than living in the past. Find things in your future to look forward to, whether it’s your next big product rollout, a plan with friends, a holiday, or a convention. Try to plan things that you know you’ll enjoy doing.


Journaling is a great way to bring you back into the present moment and connect with yourself and what is going on in your life. Journaling should be a no-pressure activity and should simply be to help get your thoughts down onto paper. It can help you make sense of your life, offer self-reflection, and see what areas you may need to work on.

Breathing techniques

There has been a lot of research that shows the benefits that various breathing techniques offer you, and one of these benefits is definitely becoming more present. When you are focusing on your breathing, there is not much else that can take your attention away from the present moment. There are many different resources available online that can assist you with learning different breathing techniques.

Focus on your health

If you are very unhealthy, you may feel yourself living in the past when you were perhaps healthier. While there are some health conditions that cannot be improved, you can always take steps to become healthier both physically and mentally. Prioritising your health will help shift your focus more towards the present and the future and away from the past.

Other tips for being happier at work

While some of these tips may not technically be about living in the present, they are about being happier in the workplace and enjoying your time spent at the office. Being happier at work means a clearer mind, better decision making, and an overall happier working environment for all of your colleagues and employees.

Make sure you have the right people surrounding you

Having positive people in the workplace around you can have a great effect on your own happiness. If you are an employer, be very careful about who you bring to your team. One person with a bad attitude can upset a cohesive team very quickly.

Change your environment 

If your workplace is dark, dingy, and sad, you may want to look at improving your working environment. Look at introducing better lighting and happier colours. Introducing natural elements such as plants and fountains can also do wonders for your overall mood at work.

Have a good work/life balance

If you are spending too much time at work, you are bound to get fed up with your working environment. Make sure that you take sufficient holidays and make the most of your time outside of work. Partake in hobbies and make plans with friends. Your off time should be enjoyable!

Be less self-critical

If you are heavily critical of your work, you are also sure to be unhappy at work. While constructive criticism is helpful, be aware of being overly critical of yourself, your employees and your work. Be self-forgiving when you make mistakes and take it as an opportunity to learn from them.

Make sure you’re eating enough

Is the reason for you being grumpy at work because you haven’t eaten enough? You need fuel to survive the workday, so ensure that you are eating the right amount and drinking enough water!

Seek professional help if you need to

Mental health is very important, and unfortunately, we live in an age where depression and anxiety are very common. Around 1 in 5 adults in the UK live with depression. That is quite staggering, especially when you consider how difficult it can be to live with depression and the effect that it can have on your life. You can lose motivation, lose interest in your hobbies, and it can ruin your relationships. If you feel that you are suffering from depression, anxiety, or have any other issues with your mental health, you may want to book an appointment with a mental health professional.

Prioritising your mental health, and listening to a professional’s advice, will not only help you get your life back on track but also be happier in your personal life and at work and help you live in the present.

It can be very difficult to break free of living in the past. But when you do, you’ll realise that you have reclaimed your life back, and you’ll find that life has so much to offer than you once thought possible. Push through the hard times, and you’ll soon see the light at the end of the tunnel.


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