“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

C.G. Jung

ÖverspagatI’m not a big believer in fate. I believe in luck (I think I’m lucky to be born in America). I believe in opportunities (even the ones that look like hard work). I don’t think that fate led me to the life I have right now. I believe that I got lucky sometimes and that I made smart choices sometimes (of course, I made some not-so-smart choices, too!) and here I am with this great life.

Many people envision improving their lives, whether that means improving their athletic abilities or increasing their annual income. It’s good to have a vision, a dream, a goal. It’s better to know how to get there. It’s best to know what is preventing you from getting there.

Self-awareness isn’t the goal. It’s the means.

Self-awareness is the first step to realizing your dreams because only when you are aware of your thoughts, attitudes, reactions, emotions, and all the other internal processes that make you human can you start to control your thoughts, attitudes, reactions, emotions, and all the other internal processes that make you human. Imagine not being controlled by your thoughts and emotions. Imagine the power that can come from you deciding how to react. Imagine the freedom that can come from deciding which thoughts deserve your attention, instead of being strung along by every single thought that enters your head.

To control your thoughts and reactions is not to beat them into submission. You don’t need to have a shouting match in your brain every time you have a thought that you don’t like. Controlling your thoughts can start with an acknowledgement of a thought and then a conscious decision of whether or not to act on that thought. You could think of it as a ranking system for your thoughts. Which ones are important? Which ones are garbage? Which ones require attention right now? Which ones can wait?

People who excel at their careers, be they CEOs or athletes, have a lot of practice tuning out distractions. Maybe you’ve had to ignore a screaming stadium, or maybe you’ve had to ignore a screaming board of directors. It’s easy for all of us to recognize the external factors that distract us. And it’s easy to blame those external factors for our lack of success. The champions among us know that we are not fated to success or failure. You can consciously steer your thoughts and actions towards either outcome.

Photo Credit: “Överspagat“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.