The myth of ‘the good old days’

by | Oct 12, 2020

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the lockdown declutter that I was having – like many of us are at the moment. As I told you, I’m a firm believer in ‘making space’ for new things in life by clearing out the old.

In this blog, I wanted to follow on from that theme of clinging onto our past possessions, which prevents us from moving forward. Because another way in which we can hold back our own progress is by holding on to the past with our emotions. What I’m talking about is our nostalgia for ‘The Good Old Days’.

Older couple looking through old photo albums

‘The Good Old Days’ is one of my least favourite expressions. It implies that the best times are behind you, that you have ‘peaked’. Where are you going to get to, what will you achieve, if you believe that you have already experienced the best of what life has to offer?

An unhealthy mindset

Let’s think about what ‘The Good Old Days’ really are. To start with, they are most likely not as good as you remember! In fact, they are more likely to be an emotional ‘shrine’ to something which isn’t remotely close to what happened. In modern terminology you can say that they are memories that have been ‘photoshopped’ by your mind.

But why? Perhaps we like to cling onto the past and give it a rosy glow to make us feel comforted that we’ve had an enjoyable time as the years have gone by.

Rose tinted glasses

But more likely, we are creating a fiction that gives us an excuse to be inert. Because if the ‘The Good Old Days’ are over, what’s the point in striving? The best has happened, it isn’t yet to come.

This is an unhealthy mindset that does not serve us in retirement. And in the same way that holding onto physical possessions can make us unable to move forward, clinging on to a rose-tinted view of the past can be just as damaging. It’s like ‘hoarding’… but in your brain!

Consider this: if you were given six months to live, would you want to look back and think your ‘heyday’ was 30 ,40, 50 years ago? Or would you rather feel that you went out on a high?

I know what I’d choose. It’s like leaving a party at the right time, happy, full of good food, a little tipsy, tired, and safe in the knowledge that it was a wonderful night.

Better times ahead

So what’s the solution? We should declutter our minds and make space for better times ahead. To do this, think about the things you think you enjoyed about the ‘The Good Old Days’.

Was it travelling – were the times when you think you were the happiest spent exploring? Or maybe your good old days were when you were driven and motivated by your career? Or perhaps when you look back, what you remember most fondly is the time when you had a great social life?

Travel photographs

Once you’ve worked out what the focus of your ‘Good Old Days’ was, then it’s time to set your intention and explore how you can have this focus, or at least experience the same joy you felt from it, in the future. How can you adapt this goal to your current existence?

For example, maybe the focus of your ‘Good Old Days’ was a thriving social life. Think about what you enjoyed about this, and start to create images of it in your head, maybe even make a ‘vision board’ using cut-out pictures.

This method uses your past for a practical, forward-focused goal, not for nostalgia! Images that you might use could be delicious restaurant food, theatre stages, laughing faces at a dinner party, cocktails… whatever parts of the memory spark joy for you.

Now, think about how you can make this your future, not your past. What steps can you take to make this happen? Hold the image of a new, more sociable life in your head, then – act! Reconnect with old friends, make new ones locally, join a club, take up amateur dramatics, do a cookery or wine course and host some tasting parties. And most of all – enjoy it.

The future is yours. Later life is not a time to tiptoe towards the finish line, but to have the ‘The Good Old Days’ all over again!

George Jerjian
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