Did you ever listen to the phrase that seems to be at the end of every financial investment commercial? The one that is designed to keep them out of legal trouble? “Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance.” It may be worded slightly differently but the bottom line is the same – they are saying “we can show you what has happened in the past but we can’t assure you it will happen again in the future.”
It is surprising how often we disregard this idea. I could get into the fact that there are somethings that we need to expect to be reliable just to get by each day. But I’m not really talking about whether the sun will rise or not. I’m talking about whether our own behaviors and our interactions with others will be exactly the same the next time they occur.
This issue had been on the periphery of my mind until a specific situation in a session crystallized it. I was working with a couple. One person was relating how bad her workout at the gym had been one day. A lot of emotional things had come up while working out and tears started to flow. In the client’s words it was a “meltdown.” The client recovered and finished the workout despite feeling embarrassment and the extra effort it required. The client was then saying how the next workout a few days later was great. It had been productive and felt fantastic.
At that point the spouse turned and said “How did you do that? Why wasn’t the next workout bad, too? I don’t think I could have gone back and had a good workout because of fear that the same thing would just happen again.” Wow, that question just crystallized what had been bouncing around in my head.
It seems that some people really don’t believe the disclaimer about the past not guaranteeing the future. In this example you could see that. The response to the question was “I just decided it was going to be better and I went and did it.” That is one perspective. Today is today…but I can make tomorrow be what I want it to be. The other end of the spectrum is “if something bad happens once, it is likely to happen again.”
In my experience, the worst version of the latter perspective often seems to stem from past trauma, particularly childhood trauma. People have been repeatedly taught that bad things happen again and again and there is nothing you can do to change it. But I would argue that most of us incorporate some of this perspective in varying degrees.
Have you ever had an experience where you’ve done something once or twice that is really a drag? You dread facing that situation again but sometimes it is different when you actually do it. You think “that wasn’t so bad”or “that was actually fun.” And how much of that difference was due to you doing something different? Or did you just embrace your fear that it would be a drag and make no attempt to change the experience?
Fear is such a powerful emotion. I’ve talked about how it can often overwhelm other feelings and strengths in a disproportionate way. But take some time to consider. Is fear driving your perspective? Fear that nothing can change, that once something bad happens it is destined to happen again? Or do you take the alternate view, the one that says I have control of my life, I can create change? That is the perspective that embraces the phrase “past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance — and that is a really, really good thing!”