So you messed up: bombed a quiz, embarrassed yourself in front of that girl, couldn’t close that sale. Or maybe you pulled it off and swept her off her feet, aced that quiz and landed a huge deal at work. While the outcomes are different, what you need to do to improve or keep improving is forget about it.

There are too many things that happen in life to bother getting wrapped up in the outcome of one situation. You did it and it worked? Fantastic, now onto the next problem. Oh you screwed up? Well, let’s give the next one your best shot. Reflecting on the past is good it encourages growth and maturity. Dwelling on the past will create a mental crutch and stop you from moving forward.

A teammate I deeply respect once told me “A good athlete has a short memory of both the good and the bad”. It is something I try to embrace whenever I step on the field. If you get hung up on a mistake it will tend to bring your whole performance down. You may start thinking of yourself as a loser or screw up, as someone who cannot be trusted. It will be a mental, possibly physical or emotional burden you will have to bair. It will weigh you down, and weigh you down hard, trying to crush your spirit and motivation.

On the opposite side, you cannot let one good thing be your claim to fame. That is what will separate the great from the legendary. Cruising on the wave of past accomplishments is fun, but it makes for poor dispositional rudder. Being unable to let go in this situation can lead to laziness, an inflated ego and even self intimidation. The feelings passing through your head might be telling you that you never have to work again because you made that one big play, or perhaps you should call it quits because you’ll never be able to pull something like that off again.

Both situations have you in a bad spot. Why are you in this position? Because you couldn’t get over something. What you want is to find that middle of the road balance where you forget about the results of what happened, but remember why things turned out that way.

The words of my teammate can easily be applied to sports ,where the successes and failures are obvious. Once you forget about the what and start paying attention to the why, changing things becomes a lot easier. If you can’t figure out how to change your results the best thing you can do is ask. Some words from a show about a magical form of public education transportation make the point clear ”If you keep asking questions, you will keep getting answers.”

This is exactly how you solve challenges in the remaining aspects of your life – at home, at work, in the classroom. It seems obvious, but even I am guilty of holding back my own inquiries for fear of looking stupid.

If you can put the past behind you, you can keep your mind clear and focused on the problems at hand. If you remember the why and not the what of your past, you will find answers to these problems. And if you remember to ask questions you will find that they all get a lot simpler.