Of course, the ability to learn from our past is quite literally central to our success in life, as well as our survival. It's also central to our yoga practice. You practice so you can continue to refine, and refine, and refine some more. Consistently building strength, focus, and new insights into a posture or habit along the way.
All of this is fab. I'm about it. And I think when it comes to small things, humans are generally pretty good at this concept.
There's another side to this idea, though, that can do just the opposite for us. That's when we come to the conclusion that "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results." Then we stop refining and instead decide we just shouldn't try at all. I see this happen most often with big important goals, like dating, or job hunting, maybe even a big-scary-challenging yoga posture. The idea that "that's just not for me," or that doing it is "a waste of time."
And it seems so reasonable. We try and try and try, and yet seem to make no progress. Or when we do make progress, and it doesn't work out, we get even more disappointed. So very disappointed. And that sucks. No one wants to feel that way. So the "learning from the past" we do is to stop putting ourselves in the position to be hurt like that again.
So why is it that sometimes we can learn from the past and refine until we get it right, and other times learning from the past means that we let go of our goals?
I think it comes down to aparigraha. This yama (moral restraint) is Sanskrit for the concept of non-attachment. It's so much easier to keep plugging away at your goals making teeny-tiny, almost imperceptible advances when reaching your goal isn't the only reason you're doing the practice. When the stakes aren't so high and the pain of making mistakes isn't so terrible that we cannot bear the thought of it.
Here's an example.
When eating healthy means trying out new fun recipes, the joy of knowing I'm doing something good for my body, and the energized feeling I get from being well-nourished, most excellent! I'll keep going with that effort indefinitely. And if I "slip up" and eat cake, it's just an opportunity for me to learn more about how, what, why that was important to me and how my body feels having eaten it.
However, when eating healthy means I can't have any of my favorite foods ever again, well, then maybe it's just not worth it...I've never been able to do it in the past, so why would this time be different? If every time I think of eating healthy, I think of months of deprivation, lack of social interaction (because I certainly can't eat out) and non-stop kale-spinach salad, with only 5 lbs lost on the scale, and a constant critical voice in my head telling me that I suck and will never be successful? Ugh. I wouldn't do that either. Not worth trying.
So what do we do?
Find a way to work toward your goals in a way you enjoy! Do it in a way you enjoy so much it doesn't even matter if you ever reach your goal.
It's not that goals are bad. I'm all for goals. But it is important to explore why this goal is so important to you, and then also why you were unsuccessful in the past. And of course, drop me a line if you want to talk.
You got this, I know it.