Can Focusing On Past Mistakes Be Helpful To Your Future?


A new study suggests that by taking a critical look at past setbacks, you help yourself in the future.

Have you ever been told that thinking about negative things from the past is unhealthy for you? Has a friend or loved one encouraged you to focus on the present and not think about yesterday?

If the answer is yes, you wouldn’t be alone. For years, conventional wisdom has held that “stink’n think’n” does nothing but cause a person to become irritable and depressed.

And when you think about it – that kind of makes sense. After all, yesterday is gone. There’s not much we can do it about it. But a new study appearing in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience suggests there may be value in focusing on past failures.

According to Brynne DiMenichi, a doctoral student at Rutgers University- Newark who led the study, people who focus on negative aspects of the past (by writing it all out) do themselves a world of good in the here and now – and the future.

You may be wondering how?

Apparently, critical thinking about past regrets helps to lower the body’s stress response. Additionally, it can also boost performance on new tasks in the future.

What’s interesting here is that the results from the study seem to fly in the face of what so many of us have been taught about negative thinking.

Curious to know more, Guy Counseling spoke to Frank Moore, a licensed counselor and Chicago hypnotherapist. He shared the following impressions of the study.

“I think the basic takeaway from the research is to not be afraid of the past. By looking at previous mistakes, even critically, it can help a person to not repeat them in the future,” says Moore.

But what about everything we’ve heard about negative thinking and its caustic side-effects?

“There is a difference between examining something bad that happened years ago versus dwelling on it. The trick is to explore issues from a distance – without piling on a bunch of judgment. That’s how we learn and grow,” says Moore,

So there you have it, folks. Focusing on the past isn’t always a bad thing – particularly when you write it out and give deep thought to the matter.

Speaking only for myself, I’d rather focus on the good things. What do you think? Is growth possible by centering your thoughts on a previous mistake?

About Brian Lannoye 36 Articles
Brian is a journalist specializing in men's issues. His interests include technology, physical fitness, outdoor adventures, exercise training, men’s grooming and medical advances. Hailing from Green Bay, he attended University of Wisconsin and NWTC. Follow him on: Facebook for new posts.