Letting go of things that happened in the past is hard. In fact, it’s really hard. Strong emotional ties to events of consequence in our life tend to leave a memorable impression. In some ways, it can be positive – reminiscing about a lost loved one or reflecting on past accomplishments. In other ways, it’s not so positive. Think about how people relive a relationship that just didn’t pan out or torture themselves over a dumb decision.

Holding onto negative things that have happened in the past allows such events to impact our present and future adversely. Admittedly, it can be difficult to ignore these thoughts, as our brain has a cleverly devious way of reminding us. Only self-awareness coupled with a conscious decision to continue despite the past will allow us to live a peaceful and meaningful life.

“Regret is useless in life. It’s in the past. All we have is now.” – Marlon Brando

Here are 20 signs it’s time to let go of the past and move on:


1. If the people and environment around us create feelings of exhaustion, it’s time to let go of the past and move on.

No matter how hard you try not to get pulled into the swirl of an emotionally needy person’s world, you may feel exhausted. Trying to prop people up all the time wears you down. If you’re seeing a continuous pattern where you’re getting involved way more than you should, it may be time to distance yourself from this relationship.

2. If we’ve lost the joy and sense of curiosity in doing what we once loved, it’s probably time to find something else that inspires us.

If you’ve lost the joy and sense of curiosity in doing what you once loved, it’s probably time to find something else that inspires you. Or perhaps you struggle to maintain your joy at your job or school. That might be a sign you are taking the wrong track. Maybe it’s time to consider looking for a new job or choosing a new school major. It’s okay to change directions. Who knows, maybe it will spark new motivation in your heart and re-ignite your joyfulness?

3. If we compromise our core beliefs and ethics because of the situation we’re in, it’s time to leave that situation behind.

If your situation is causing you a moral dilemma, it’s not worth it. No situation should cause you to go against your conscience. Whether it’s work, friends, or family members, stick to what you know is right. You don’t need to be rude about standing up for your beliefs. Explain in kind, but firm words where you stand and why you’re walking away.

4. If we’re not having fun anymore, it’s time to find something that recreates that joyful feeling.

Of course, not everything in life is fun. But there are some things you do that should be fun and give you joy. If this isn’t happening, maybe it’s time to examine your heart. Is it something you should or shouldn’t be doing? Are you making poor choices regarding a situation that’s causing you to lose joy? Maybe it’s time to redefine joy and find something that will help you recreate it.

5. If we’re faking a cheerful disposition when the circumstances are leaving us miserable, it’s time to confront this self-deception and move past it.

It takes courage to be honest about your circumstances. It leaves you vulnerable, but if you have friends and family who you know will accept you and make it easy for you to stop self-deception, don’t wait. Take the step to move past your situation and get help.

6. If we fear making changes and settling for our current condition, it’s time to embrace those fears, let go of the past, and move forward.

It’s easy to stay in the familiar. It feels predictable and safe, but that’s not always the best for you. Stepping out into the unknown takes courage. It takes faith that you’re on the right path. Maybe it’s time for you to embrace your fears and move forward.

7. If we feel that our dreams are no longer relevant or possible, it’s probably time to remind ourselves of our purpose and take concrete steps to make it happen.

You may have lost sight of your dreams, but you can get back on track by reminding yourself how you got on this journey. Find like-minded friends who will encourage you along the way. This helps you avoid loneliness and losing sight of your goal.

8. If we yearn for feelings of freedom, it’s probably because our current situation doesn’t allow it. Consider letting go of the past and making changes.

Of course, you must know what freedom is and what it isn’t before launching out. Sometimes responsibilities can make you feel less free, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Sift through what is essential and where you need freedom and where you don’t. Consider changing what you can, but are content with what you can’t change.

9. If our life’s current state does not coincide with the expectations we’ve set, it’s time to be proactive in meeting those expectations.

Perhaps you’ve been lazy or self-absorbed so that you haven’t met the expectations you set years ago. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate where you’re at and work towards meeting those expectations that were important to you in the past.

10. If we have more feelings of sadness than happiness or cry more than we laugh, it’s probably because of a toxic situation that we must release.

Life involves seasons. Some seasons are happier and more manageable than others. If you’re finding that you’re living only with sadness, it may be time to ask yourself why. Are you living with unrealistic views of life? Or are you putting yourself in a toxic relationship? Whatever the reason, it may be time to move on in this current season.


11. If our thought processes are more affixed to things in the past rather than the present or future, it’s time to make a change.

Suppose you find yourself living in the past more than in the present. It’s time for you to get perspective. Perhaps you lost a good friend and miss them terribly, or maybe your past life was happier than your present one. No one would fault you, but you’re missing out on the potentially good things that can come from embracing today.

Find a group of people you can trust, get encouragement and support from them as you begin your journey back to the present. Who knows what happiness may lie around the corner for you?

12. If we find ourselves continually pleading for someone or some situation to change for the better, it’s worthwhile to contemplate whether or not it’s working.

It’s challenging to change people. They must want it even more than you do. If someone you know refuses to change, maybe it’s time to get some outside help. Asking for help shouldn’t be embarrassing. Sometimes others can say or do things that will motivate someone to change.

13. If a current situation invokes feelings of boredom, resentfulness, or complacency, it’s probably time to make a change.

As an adult, you know that life is sometimes boring. But that doesn’t mean you should give in to complacency. Your life can have a purpose even during dull times. If you’re struggling with resentment and lack motivation, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your heart. Changing your view of your life situation will help you feel happier and full of purposefulness.

14. If rehashing memories causes more pain than comfort, it’s time to move forward and make new ones.

Memories are to be kept in the heart, not re-examined over and over. If you’re finding that your memories are holding you back, it’s time to let go of them and look to make new memories with your family and friends.

15. If we fail to correct patterns of behavior that have caused us harm, it’s time to evaluate why and make a positive change.

Staying in patterns of behavior that harm is unhealthy. Perhaps you’re punishing yourself. Maybe you feel unworthy of love or good things in life. Whatever the reason, it’s time to break free from self-harm. Talk to a pastor or counselor about what’s going on in your life. They can help you find the freedom you want and deserve.

16. If we feel isolated from everyone else or misunderstood or rejected, we’re in the company of the wrong people. It’s probably time to find new relationships.

Friendships should help make you a better person. If your friends are pulling you down or rejecting you, it’s time to find new friends. Find a community of people who can encourage you and make you a better person.

17. If someone we’re with causes us to cease personal development and/or discovery, it may be time to move forward.

If the people around you aren’t out of your good but wish to hurt you, it’s time to find new friends. Find a community of people who will build you up, not tear you down. Surround yourself with individuals who you can invest in and help.

18. If we attempted to “make things work” multiple times with no progress, it’s time to evaluate the situation and make a change.

Perhaps it’s time to get outside help to make the situation better. There’s nothing wrong with needing help. Talk to a pastor or counselor about your situation. They can walk with you through the different things that are going on and help you find peace and change where needed.

19. If we constantly make sacrifices for our significant other, but they don’t reciprocate, it’s time for a discussion. Moreover, it might be time to part ways.

Relationships are messy. They take time and lots of effort. If you make sacrifices with no notice from your partner, it’s essential to talk to them about what you’re feeling. If you don’t discuss it, you’ll end up getting bitter and resentful. That’s a terrible way to live.

20. If we’ve neglected our other personal relationships because of a past person or situation, we’re hurting them and ourselves. It’s time to change that.

If a situation is monopolizing your time, it might be time to re-evaluate your involvement. Ask yourself if this is where you need to be putting all your time and energy. Perhaps the committeeman was important in the past. But as your life changes, you may need to step away from this situation to better yourself and others.


Final Thoughts on Letting Go of the Past and Moving on in Life

Most decisions to move on are difficult. This is especially true when these decisions involve letting go of another human being or group of people. It’s important to understand that we needn’t make this difficult transition alone, although many people unnecessarily feel this way.

If you make a decision to move forward in life, do so for the right reasons. Also, please seek the comfort and assistance of people that love and care for you.