It was a cold December night in 1914. In West Orange, New Jersey, a fire raged. That fire began as a massive explosion, and engulfed 10 industrial buildings, over half of one man’s business enterprise and life’s work.
Gazing at the inferno that required the work of eight fire departments to contain it, the 67 year old man calmly said to his adult son, “Go get your mother. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.” Later that night, at the scene of the blaze, he told the New York Times, “Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.” That next morning, after looking over the ruins, he said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” And keeping with his word, Thomas Edison started again.
“All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” -Thomas Edison
There is a profound truth in Edison’s words here. We can start anew. Always. Not just after disaster strikes. Every day really is a clean slate. But many of us struggle with this because we continue to hold onto the old that is no longer serving us. We pull our past into our present, and it creates so much clutter that there is no room for anything new. We are hoarders of the past. Have you ever been in the house of a hoarder? There is no room to actually live because the stuff—animals, clothes, trash, junk—is taking up all the space. When we hoard our past, we live every waking moment as a slave to what happened yesterday, last year, 20 years ago, etc. And there is only one reason we do it…it’s familiar and comfortable. It’s not serving our growth and development; it’s only serving our smallness and stuckness.
We are hoarders of the past.
I once gave a young client of mine a blank piece of paper and told her to write down what she wanted in life. Anything at all. Her past didn’t matter. She could write whatever she wanted…and it scared her. Most of us don’t realize just how much we depend on the constraints of the past to dictate what’s possible for us right now. And without those constraints, we’re terrified. But imagine the life you would have if you intentionally live outside the constraints, if you choose to let them burn.
Imagine your life free from the constraints of your past.
Give some consideration to anything from your past that is cluttering up your present—successes, sorrows, experiences, losses, injuries, accomplishments, titles. How would you show up today if those things were no longer impacting your choices? If you could create anything at all on this clean slate of today, what would it be?