Acknowledge Your Positive Past

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Can you name nine significant achievements in your life? Of course you can. Just like anyone, you have a long string of successes.

However, it’s so easy to forget about your successes and focus on your failings. That’s why it’s valuable to remind yourself of your successes and acknowledge your positive past.

Principle #25 in Jack Canfield’s book “The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” is “Acknowledge Your Positive Past.” I love his poker analogy related to self-esteem and success.

Imagine that you and I are playing a game of poker. You start with 10 chips and I start with 200 chips. You are likely to be very conservative in your play. After all, if you lose two bets of five chips each, you’re done. In contrast, I would be willing to take many more risks. I would have to lose 40 times betting five chips each time before I was out of the game.

Acknowledge Your Positive Past Poker Chips

Your self-esteem works the same way. The more self-esteem you have, the more risks you are willing to take. And without being willing to take risks and reach outside of your comfort zone, you stay right where you are.

“Most everything that you want is
just outside your comfort zone.”

– Jack Canfield

What if you actually had 400 chips, but forgot about 390 of them that you had stashed in your bag. You would actually have a much better advantage in the game, but without realizing it, you would still play conservatively. After losing your ten chips, you’d feel like you lost it all.

Acknowledge Your Positive Past Poker Chips

Similarly, you might have many more achievements than me or someone else in a certain field. However, if you don’t acknowledge them but instead focus on your failings, you can depress your self-esteem. You can sabotage yourself before you even start.

There are two truths to remember here.

  • We all start out equally. No one else is any better than you and you are no better than anyone else.
  • Any one of us can increase (or decrease) our self-esteem. We can often do so by changing our self-talk and one way to increase your self-esteem is to acknowledge your positive past. Change your self-talk by acknowledging your successes.

How to Acknowledge Your Positive Past

A simple exercise you can do to acknowledge your positive past (and raise your self-esteem) is list some of your successes. Jack suggests dividing your age by three to identify three time periods of your life and list three successes in each. For example, I’m currently 57. I listed my three age periods along with three successes during each time period here:

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It’s easy to forget about your successes, but when you take the time to do so, it helps you remember some of your great achievements. It helps you remember the value of You.

How to Acknowledge Your Positive Past Year

For several years now (largely thanks to Jack Canfield), I have gotten into the habit of developing annual goals each December, and reviewing my past year’s goals.  Throughout the year, I pursue these goals and track my progress.

Last December, I was part of a mastermind group and members in the group recommended we share our successes from the past year. This forced me to list each goal as I wrote it the previous December, and the progress toward these goals. My self-esteem shot to the moon.

Tracking my goals on a weekly and monthly basis showed consistent incremental progress. However, listing all the achievements for the year allowed me to see the significant achievements that resulted from this consistent incremental progress.

Try It – Acknowledge Your Positive Past

Take a moment and divide your age by three. List at least three successes in each time frame. You can probably remember more than just three. Feel free to list as many as come to mind for yourself.


About This Post

I’ve been learning from Jack Canfield (of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame) since 2008. I credit much of my success (including authoring or co-authoring more than 40 books) to applying principles in my life that he teaches. I’m currently going through his book “The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be,” covering one principle a week.


Here’s a link to other musing’s on Jack Canfield’s Success Principles.


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