I am what I choose to become

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

“Everything in nature is part of evolution,” he reasoned, “so if this kind of thing happens to so many people there must be a good evolutionary reason for it.

What could that be?

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

Later, as adults, we live in a world filled with conflicting messages about who we should be, what we should buy, how we should behave, how we should vote, and so on.

Then the things we got upset about as children become a gift. If we can understand them clearly, they show us what matters most to us.

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.”

As adults, this means that we can take these events and use them as signposts that show us the impact we most want to create with our lives.

And if we combine this with learning from our past, learning from our future, and learning from the people we most admire then we can give ourselves a deeper understanding of what truly matters to us, what drives us, the world we want to create.

In a time of change, this will not only inspire us it will give us the direction and inspiration to become who we truly are.

Can you remember an upsetting event from your childhood? (We all have one.) What would it be like if you were working, with others, 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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(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)

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