Oswald Letter

Letting go of yesterday

by Dan Oswald

Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. Begin it well and serenely with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

A friend sent me this quote the other day. Maybe it was the day I was having, but I appreciated receiving Emerson’s advice at that particular moment. We all have days when things just don’t go our way. And just like a hitter in baseball, from time to time we might even experience a bit of a slump where it seems we can’t get out of our own way.

Tell me you’ve never felt like the words expressed in the old Porter Wagoner song “Sun Don’t Shine (on the Same Dog Every Day).” Included in the lyrics is this line: “You know the sun don’t shine on the same dog every day. And I’m due a little sunshine; it’s been a long, long time.”

It’s human nature to think about the what-ifs. What if I had done that differently? What if that hadn’t happened? What if we had moved more quickly? What’s the saying? “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.” You can second-guess and wonder about what you might have done differently, but you can’t change what has already occurred. The sooner you accept that reality, the better off you’ll be.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t review what you have done and what’s gone wrong. To bury your head in the sand and ignore problems that have occurred and mistakes that have been made would be foolish. But you also can’t spend all your time dwelling on the past and considering what went wrong. If you do, you will never move forward.

This is where we need to heed Emerson’s advice so we can “begin it well and serenely with too high a spirit to be encumbered with [our] old nonsense.” To his point, if you want to come to work energized and ready to face the day, you can’t be dwelling on yesterday’s problems. If you’re constantly thinking about what has happened in the past, you won’t be able to look forward to the next opportunity.

I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “Easier said than done.” And you’re right. It’s easy to say you shouldn’t dwell on the negative that has transpired and should think only about what’s next—much easier than actually doing it. That’s where you need to develop some strategies for yourself.

I have a confession to make. Regardless of the amount of pressure at work or the problems I may have encountered that day, I have no problem falling asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. I don’t know why that is, but I’m thankful for it! My problem occurs when I wake up in the middle of the night. If I have concerns that I’m grappling with, that’s when I begin to think about them. My mind starts working, and I can’t fall back to sleep. I have learned that I’m better off getting up and dealing with the problem in some fashion so I can go back to sleep. If I do that, I still have the opportunity to come to work unencumbered with my “old nonsense.”

Who knows what might work for you. Maybe you can come up with an end-of-day ritual that will help you bring closure to every day—even the worst of them. But whatever it is, you must find ways to put yesterday’s concerns behind you so you can face today’s opportunities with energy and enthusiasm. Doing the most with today and not worrying about yesterday will bring you the greatest success!