Life lessons from the Natural History Museum

In June/July 2013 I travelled through the United States for a few weeks on my own. At the time I wrote posts about my experiences and published them on another blog, but want to share some of them with you over the next few weeks. The first comes from my visit to New York City. I hope you enjoy.

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Today I visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and it gave me a lot to think about for many reasons. Aside from the obvious exhibitions, which were great, I thought a lot about how history shapes our lives. I’m not talking so much about history in a world context (although that certainly impacts our lives greatly and is worth further discussion), but more specifically about how our own life history provides a filter through which we view the world, including how we live presently and in the future.

The kind of life we plan or imagine for ourselves can be skewed by previous experiences and the actions we take can fit within a ‘safe’ framework built up over our lives. For example, if we were told we couldn’t sing or had an experience where we were afraid of flying then these become the facts of our lives, and a filter through which we see the world.

The thing is, maybe we can’t sing like a rock god but that shouldn’t diminish the enjoyment we still get from belting out our favourite tune in the shower! Not singing would be to let our past experiences shadow how we live presently. The same could be said if we let one bad experience with flying impact our dreams to live in Italy for a year. See how this second example of a previous event has a really profound impact on the future? Unless you live in Europe and can catch a train, you become faced with a dilemma about how to make your Italian dream a reality. Do you continue to dream but know you can’t do it because you will never get on a plane? It would be so easy, and totally flippant, to suggest we could just decide we don’t have a problem with flying anymore and jet off to Italy, but the truth is we genuinely have feelings associated between our history and future actions. Rather than being able to just remove the fear from the situation we can at least look at how much our history informs our future so that our decisions are considered in a bigger view.

It is important to learn from the past and much of our growth can be attributed to what we’ve learned up until this point, but perhaps the more critical thing to consider is how we can strike a balance between valuable lessons learned in life, and identifying the old beliefs which now hold us back from trying to live the life we want to live.

As with exhibits in a museum, what happens in the past is history. How we look at the past when considering the future is the one of the greatest gifts history can give.

Thanks for reading this article. Please let me know in the comments section below if there is something in your past currently impacting your future. I’d love to hear some individual experiences.