Ditch the Baggage

Who among us hasn’t from time to time carried the baggage of regret with us? Some of us may still being carrying that baggage. If so, stop it! It’s undermining your self-worth and limiting your future.


I never cease to be amazed by where I find nuggets of wisdom. In this particular case it was from James Patterson’s (opens in a new link) book, Cajun Justice (opens in a new link). The main character in this book is plagued with guilt over the death of his wife and child…deaths for which he blames himself.

In a moment of extreme fatigue during a Zen training session, our hero loses consciousness. When he regains it one of the monks says to him:

“Mountains exist for you to climb, not for you to carry.”

Wow, what amazing phraseology and how spot on for all of us. How often have we allowed the missteps we’ve made to become mountains? How long have we carried these mountains and what has it cost us?

Avoid creating mountains

I know that in my youth I created a fair number of mountains for myself and carried them far longer than I should have. With age and experience I’ve learned not to do that.

The simplest way to avoid carrying baggage is to stop creating mountains in the first place. It’s easier than you think. Here are a few thoughts to help you avoid creating mountains:

  1. Regrets are a waste of time. We can’t change history, but we can learn from it.
  2. Every human being makes mistakes, some more serious than others, but generally others are tolerant of our missteps because they know what it feels like; they’ve made them too.
  3. Mistakes accelerate our learning. We learn more from our mistakes than what goes well.
  4. If you make a mistake and learn something, it’s an investment. If you don’t, it’s an expense.
  5. When we learn from our mistakes and take steps to avoid making them again, we limit the possibility of creating new mountains in the future.
  6. Realize that while we may think that our mistake closed the door on an opportunity, the reality is that the door may be closed, but it’s never locked. We can open the door again with a genuine admission of our mistake and willingness to accept the consequences of our actions. Remembering that others are tolerant when we don’t make excuses for our mistakes.

With these simple thoughts, as they become your new mindset, you’ll find peace with your past and confidence, excitement and joy in the pursuit of your future.

For you

When you feel the burden of regret creeping onto your shoulders, remember the monk’s words:

“Mountains exist for you to climb, not for you to carry.”

The challenges in life are there to make us stronger, more confident and provide us with a sense of accomplishment when they are overcome. They are not there to become baggage that we can’t possibly carry or to limit the joy life affords.

Keep the ideas for avoiding creating mountains handy so that you can review them whenever you feel yourself accepting the baggage of regret and you’ll quickly realize that it’s you who is creating the baggage. And that it’s you who can choose not to participate in its creation.

For our kids

Kids are not exempt from making mountains out of mistakes. Indeed, to me it seems that it’s easier for them to do so because they have so few experiences in dealing with mistakes.

A friend said that one of her challenges is getting her 30-year-old sons to stop overreacting to the challenges they face. Her comment made me realize that it is the lack of experience that makes their challenges seem larger than they really are. If 30-year-olds are experiencing this struggle, imagine what it is like for kids in their early childhood when they face new challenges, or make mistakes which often become the source of ridicule to them.

Share the monk’s wisdom with your kids, as well as the thoughts about how to avoid creating mountains. They’ll be grateful to you for the rest of their lives.

By the way, don’t forget to live this message. Kids pay more attention to what we do than what we say. Enjoy!

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your thoughts in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link).

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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2 Responses

  1. Bill Prenatt

    Dale, Always love your insights! Why do we insist on sabotaging ourselves?

    • Dale Furtwengler

      Bill, glad that you enjoy them. I don’t know that I have a reason why. We do indeed tend to be our harshest critics. One of the ways to quickly move from this natural tendency is to, upon experiencing self-deprecation, ask yourself “What did I learn from this experience?” Asking this question moves us from harsh judgment to the joy of personal growth. I hope this helps.

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