How to let go of the past and choose happiness today

Author and motivational speaker Daniel Gutierrez on not letting the past define you.

Woman in city with arms raised

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My husband and I weren’t athletic kids per se. Sure both of us played backyard baseball, but we weren’t the school’s star athletes by any means. Me, I was more into dance class while my husband’s interest and abilities were cut short when his leg was run over by a city bus at the age of 11.

Another thing neither of us was known for was running. But, to look at us now, you’d never know. My husband’s got two marathons under his belt, I’ve done one and we have dozens of five, eight and 10K races behind us. Evenings in our household involve a lot of trading-off — one of us stays with the kids to put them to bed while the other squeezes a run in, and then we tag off. For us, running leads to physical strength and mental peace of mind.

Why am I telling you this? This epiphany came to me after speaking with Daniel Gutierrez, author of Stepping Into Greatness: Success Is Up To You and one of the speakers at Toronto’s ‘Trigger Your Happy’ conference this past weekend. After talking with him, I realized that we both chose to move past our childhood labels and work towards something that’s given us a lot of joy.

As Gutierrez tells me, stepping into our own greatness means not only accepting who we are, but sometimes letting go or pushing past who we were. “Most people run from greatness,” says Gutierrez, who speaks with a preacher-like persuasion. “They run from it because they’re too caught up in limited beliefs about things that the world has told them that they are. ‘I can’t do that because’, or ‘I can’t do that because’…and those things keep us from understanding how powerful we are.”

While I might have raised a possible skeptical eyebrow at Gutierrez’s self-help talk, I get what he’s saying. That we can’t move into who we are until we truly accept ourselves and let go of past perceptions.

But what does acceptance and greatness have to do with happiness? “The reason we’re not happy is we’re not accepting ourselves. Acceptance, love, compassion and happiness are all in the same arena. And if one of those is off, it’s impossible to be happy,” he says. “Happiness comes from accepting who you are and being happy with that. When we can accept the fact that we’re perfect the way we are and step into that greatness of acceptance of ourselves and forgiveness, then happiness is the automatic by-product.”

Happiness, he insists, is something we can choose to be when faced with life’s knuckleballs. “Choosing to be happy is that easy,” he says. “The world’s moving and not stopping for us. So we can make a choice to be happy in that moment no matter what’s going on around us, or choose not to. The choice is ours.”