What I Would Tell My 22 Year-Old Self

May 14
2015

IfIWere22Given the opportunity to go back in time, I would share the quote that sits beautifully framed on my office desk today with my 22-year-old self. It was written by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in 167 AD in his work The Meditations. Aurelius wrote, “You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” The impact on my thinking was immediate. In one brief moment the power of his words and the resonance they had in my life completely changed my perspective and altered how I would deal with life’s challenges, and what it meant to live a success-filled life. What I realized in that moment was that in its simplicity, this quote holds the key to cultivating the mindset that enables one to effectively deal with any situation or event life brings your way.

The words express the powerful truth that our thoughts, and how we choose to execute them, define the quality of the life we experience. We are all familiar with the stories of people like Louis Zamperini and Eli Wiesel and Marcus Aurelius.

The lives of these men under difficult and even dire circumstances serve as evidence that one always has the freedom to choose how to face their struggles in life. Each in their own way defined the events they experienced, rather than having the events define them. Recognizing that we always have the choice—that power over our minds, thinking, and reactions—gives us the strength and freedom to choose to compromise, oppose, or collaborate in any situation. This means that much more than happiness comes from within. It requires that we seek the facts, the truth, analyze them, consider them in relation to our values, and then decide to act. A decision based on our values and of our choosing gives us the strength to face new challenges, and leaves no place for blame of others or ourselves. Choices and decisions add up, and no matter how seemingly small some are, all of them carry their weight and add up to what we become. Realizing that we ultimately have the power over our choices gives us the strength to take on the difficult challenges that once met leave us with a sense of fulfillment, meaning, and purpose and in the end a life well lived.

I share this with you in the hope that you will consider this advice as you move out into the world. Know that all the experiences to come, both positive and negative, have the opportunity to be used to your advantage—especially those where initially you feel the most powerless. Unleashing your infinite potential begins with the realization that we cannot control what happens to us—we can only control our thoughts and responses to the events of our lives. As you face the great challenges and successes ahead, find strength and peace to shape your life by having power over your mind.