Reality Check: If your past was a yard sale…

Even if you don’t love yard sales or flea markets, you probably know someone who does. While frugality is some of the incentive, for the passionate yard-salers, much of the joy comes from the hunt.

The thrill of the hunt is only surpassed when you find a treasure after searching through a pile of what looks like junk (to the untrained eye). It’s satisfying to uncover a prize that no one else recognized as such.

Yard sale aficionados tend to be pretty darn pleased about their victories. They remember exactly how much they paid, how the sale went, maybe even the weather: “It was overcast and spittin’ rain; the seller was getting desperate and hauling their tables in under cover. I came round and made a last ditch offer and they went for it. Score!!”

When you talk about your finds and show them to your friends, which pieces do you point out for discussion? The fantastic deals? Those special items that you bagged for a fraction of their value?

Or do you talk about the duds? (You did buy some duds, didn’t you?) Like the electric bottle opener that you never could figure out how to use, the ugly lamp that your spouse wouldn’t allow in the house, or the fancy cat bed that the cat sniffed at, turned tail, and never so much as set a paw in.

When we look at our possessions, it’s quite sensible and human to remind ourselves of our great deals. We look at our successes, and brush over our less successful acquisitions.

Now let’s turn the same attention to our memories. Put in yard sale terms, do we concentrate and reflect on the great deals we got? Or do we relive the times that are equivalent to paying $20 for a plush chair that turned out to be bug-filled and tossed in the garbage? (Not that I have ever done that, of course.)

When we talk or think about our past, do we concentrate on the triumphs, delights, and successes? Or do we dwell in the pit of our disappointments? Do we bring out our best memories? Or do we spend time reliving our miseries and rehashing incidents where people have treated us poorly?

If we are so delighted by our best yard sale finds, why not take the same approach and concentrate on our best life “finds”?

An approach that’s sometimes used to help people implies that we cannot make progress unless we first understand, go over, and work through every single thing that has ever gone badly.

Let’s think about that for a bit. Things go badly; it’s true. In some lives, horrible things happen. In some cases, analyzing and working through those events may be very helpful.

Is that always the case, though?

If you picture the part of your memory that holds your past as your “display cabinet,” might it be more helpful to display your wins? To concentrate on the actions that you are proud of, the events that you are happy about?

Likewise, is it more satisfying for you to fill your internal photo gallery with pictures of the people who have treated you well, or those who have treated you badly? To remember the folks who have encouraged you to do more than you thought you could, or those who keep reminding you that you are a victim of your past, your heritage, your culture?

What we pay attention to, concentrate on, and discuss makes a difference in our lives. The great news is that we can choose what we pay attention to—our treasures or our duds. Which do you think creates a more satisfying life?

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