Keeping Score! - Our PAST impacts Our FUTURE!

Updated: Sep 16




George Orwell said, “Whoever owns the past, owns the future, but whoever owns the present owns the past.”


The world's recent past has been filled with negative change, change which has diversely impacted each of us. According to Wikipedia, the covid virus was first identified from an outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. As of August 6, 2022, the pandemic was reported to have generated more than 583million cases and 6.41million confirmed deaths, making it one of the deadliest in history.


An Economist Magazine headline summed it up this way: Some companies SURFED through Covid, others SWAM, still others SUNK. Some people are suffering with post-traumatic-stress while others are enjoying post-traumatic-growth. Why do different people, experiencing similar circumstances, generate such different outcomes?


George Orwell, one more time: “Whoever owns the past, owns the future, but whoever owns the present owns the past.” What does this mean for us, having struggled through covid, the war in Ukraine, and now inflation with rising interest rates?


Let me take a crack at understanding Orwell's idea. Our past is malleable in our present because the way we feel about our past experiences is only an interpretation. In the now we all have the ability, the choice, to reframe the stories we tell ourselves about our past. "Trauma is not about fairness or unfairness, it’s about the meaning that you give each experience." Ben Hardy.


Post traumatic stress and post traumatic growth develop from our interpretation of past negative events. When I was 16 years old, I rammed my right knee into the left goal post during a junior hockey playoff game. The post didn't move, so my knee moved. Over the ensuing six months, my knee was operated on, casted, and rehabilitated. During this time I was focused, in the present, around getting past the pain and re-strengthening that leg. My interpretation of my busted knee is a favourite story that I tell myself because "If I can survive that, I can do anything."


We can turn negative experiences into post traumatic growth when we view a past situation in a purposeful manner, through a "I will use this to get better, to improve" lens.

Ricky Norton learned to ask himself two questions when tough times hit:


1- How can I use this to be better, not bitter?

2- How can I use this to help other people?


We can use the first question to begin reframing the past stories that we intend to tell ourselves in the present. This first question also helps us define how our better selves, our future selves, will not only react, but act going forward from a past negative experience. Deciding to become a Victor and not a Victim coming out of (what we call) Past-Negative trauma is the definitive factor impacting our today and the way we behave in our tomorrows.





We can use the second question to reframe our past stories towards who we will become in the future. The powerful actors in our past stories influence the character and values of our future selves. Framing our past stories through a selfless rather than a selfish lens changes the language through which we interpret the purpose and meaning of the stories, in our present. In this scenario, "I can't believe that this happened to me again" becomes "how could I share this experience to help others?"




The final accelerator of George Orwell's idea that “Whoever owns the past, owns the future, but whoever owns the present owns the past" is the powerful indicator of future success, GRATITUDE. Many characteristics are future-based, like vision, or past-based, like blame. Gratitude works whether we are being thankful in the past, present, or the future. Being thankful for past events, independent of their positive or negative frame, shortens the transition from being selfish to being selfless, and from seeing ourselves as a victim or a victor.


We have found that the presence of gratitude is not only an accelerator but also an indicator that owning your past, present and future is right around the corner!

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Further reading…


In her book Ask for More, negotiation expert Alexandra Carter suggests leaders phrase their questions by beginning with the words: “Tell me.” Think “Tell me your perspective on what just happened,” or “Tell me more about why you think that.” As Carter notes, sometimes the problem isn’t what you think it is. When you begin with tell me, you can find out what the other person actually cares about, rather than making assumptions. “No question unlocks trust, creativity, understanding, and mind-blowing solutions like ‘tell me.’”