I am what I choose to become

Carl Jung

Sigmund Freud said that sometimes the memories of things that happened to us in our childhoods can return to mess up our lives when we get older. But for Carl Jung this explanation made no sense.

Jung reasoned that everything in nature is part of evolution. So if this happens then there must be a good evolutionary benefit that comes from it. What could that be?

Jung realised that different people get upset about different things. One child might interpret an event as meaning people didn’t love them. Another might interpret the same event as meaning people thought they were stupid. A third child might interpret the same event as meaning they were unimportant. And a fourth child might breeze through the same event completely unaffected. In effect, we each choose what we get upset about and what we think it means.

Years later, when we are living in a world where so many messages are telling us who we should be, what we should buy, and how we should behave, this means that the things we got upset about as children are a gift: they show us what we care about.

As adults, we are the same people we were when we were children, but now we have the power to shape our lives. As adults, we can take these events and use them as signposts that align us towards the impact we most want to create with our lives.

Yes the past happened. But it doesn’t define who we are. It shows us who we want to become.

Or as Carl Jung put it:

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

And if we combine learning from our past with learning from our future and learning from the people we most admire, then we can create a deeper understanding of what truly drives us. This will provide motivation and focus that not only inspires us through this time of change but also shows us what we most want to create in the world (for ourselves and others) and so enables us to become who we truly are.

Can you remember an upsetting event from your childhood? (We all have one.) What would it be like to build a world that is the opposite of that?


Inner Leadership is a framework and a set of tools for building inspiration in a time of change.

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