First published in Thrive Global 27 October 2020

Keeping the slate clean…

Human beings are incredibly neurotic creatures. Think about it. No other animal will create problems for themselves like we can and routinely do. Human beings are uniquely able to conceive of and be aware of a past and a future and so, we time travel back and forth from the past to the future. We can do this incessantly. What’s sacrificed is the present leaving us with lots of incompletions and regrets. We become fearful of repeating past mistakes, and we carry those mistakes around with us ironically condemning us to repeat them.

How we read our fears and how we frame our mistakes determines our future. This poses a question…

Do our fears and incompletions predict the future, or do they create it?

We draw conclusions from our experience, situations, people and circumstances and build up a narrative about ‘how things are’. Then we live like that is The Truth, when in reality, it is a likely story and a potentiality, and not necessarily how things are at all.

And then, we deny ourselves opportunities in life because we believe the stories we are telling ourselves; effectively weaponizing the incompletion, and we use it against ourselves and occasionally against others. That’s neurotic!

Where do those stories come from?

The past.

We then project those stories into the future and living like they are true, we re-create them. In other words, our fears, our incompletions and our regrets are now authoring our future. We hide behind these incompletions and use them as a way of avoiding doing the very things that bring our lives richness and joy that makes them worth doing and life worth living.

If this is familiar, then you are stuck in a comfort zone. We talk about the comfort zone a lot, especially in terms of where the magic happens. The magic happens outside of what is comfortable and familiar. It’s also where success lies. What’s less talked about is the struggle zone which is further inside of the comfort zone and where you are likely to fall into, sooner or later, if you spend too much time inside your comfort zone.

Maybe, you tell yourself, “I’ve tried this before”. You may even have plenty of evidence for how that hasn’t worked out and why you can therefore justify your inaction: This applies to all areas of life, both professional and personal.

You will find evidence for whatever argument you are looking to support and validate.

I do it, you do it, we ALL do it.

It’s a very human thing to do. We are wired that way! And, you might well create the same result that you have in the past; the one you are desperately seeking to avoid. Chances are the things that you want that you’re avoiding doing are incompletions from the past. If that’s true, then you are a prisoner of the past and your own incompletions. The real price you pay in doing so is not achieving your goals and even if you don’t achieve them, finding out who you are in the process of stepping up to the plate to give it your best shot.

I look into my own life and the stories I tell myself that keep me from going after what I want. I’m no different to everyone else I work with. I am more aware of it, and I still need to recognize when I’m running a past based narrative and then the moment of truth comes—the moment of choice. You are powerless to act if you keep something alive that doesn’t serve you. The truth is, no matter what has happened, it’s past, and you keep it alive in the present. It would be like attempting to draw something new on a page that is already full of text and drawings.

To create anything new, we need a clean slate.

It’s easy to see the sense of a clean slate when we look at it in terms of creating something new, like a drawing or a piece of art. So why is it, we don’t see that with ourselves? It’s the human condition.

I wish I could tell you this is something you only need to do once. Get complete once and you are all done and dusted…

It doesn’t work that way.

It is an ongoing process. Sometimes we need to keep getting complete and putting the past back in the past where it belongs so that our future remains clear and full of possibilities.

YOU are the slate to keep clean and clear and whether or not you choose to do that’s up to you.

To find out more on keeping the slate clean go to