The first step to breaking free from the past is changing how your brain operates. More important than what you experience will be how you interpret your experiences. The same conditions witnessed by different people will create quite different effects. Your mind is a factory for turning raw observation into elaborate paradigms of meaning.
Why is extended time spent in isolation considered the worst punishment a person can endure by some, but a dear luxury to others who will go to great length to acquire it? Being alone with their own thoughts drives some people insane. For others, it is the most direct path to sanity. Each uses a different operating system to make sense of the world and their place within it. Each responds differently to what they encounter within themselves.
Your mindset is how you make sense of what happens to you and apply meaning to experience. It leads you to act in your own signature way as a response to the environment you are in. The patterns of your responses define your visible personality. Everything anyone else knows about you is a description of how your mind orders the chaos of its observations. You think it is a static thing, but in reality you are constantly creating it with each new action and interpretation.
Changing your mindset changes the course of your entire life. To become exceptional, you must immediately learn to see the world and your role within it in a new way. You are not the victim of your circumstances any longer. You are an interpreter given a lifetime of observational data to play with. You can test the flexibility of your mind. You can make whatever meaning you want. You can uncover the inner workings of yourself and society that so few ever acknowledge, if only you learn to harness your own mindset as the tool it really is. The day you do this is the day you stop being a product of your past and become an engineer for the version of the future you want.
Begin now by reexamining everything in your life that has come before this moment. Take something deeply familiar to you and will yourself to look at it with the eyes of a stranger. Do you see where you have added meaning to it through repeated exposure? When you can remove from your mind even the fundamental presuppositions of how reality ought to work, you have freed yourself from the world’s operating system. You are now ready to assign your own meaning.
You will have the most difficult time doing this with anything that carries automatic emotional associations in your mind. Before you even think about what something is and how it works, you may intuitively feel something about it. These unconscious emotions can be positive or negative, but they always color your interpretation of things. They are the most difficult to remove because there is nearly no space between the external stimulus and internal response.
Train yourself to question every emotion you feel. Emotions are not the enemy, but left unexamined they can lead you astray. No matter what you feel, look for the underlying causal factors. Ask yourself why something should make you so instantly joyful, terrified, enamored, or devastated. Realize which responses are not serving your identity and begin the difficult process of weaning your mind off of them.
There is great responsibility in rewriting the meaning of all things. Now you alone are the author of the story, and no one else can be blamed for how you have written things. Only an exceptional mind is ready for such a grand burden.