Decisions are the difference between the life you have and the life you want.
They're also the reason most people are stuck in lives they didn't plan for.
That was my case.
Three years ago, I was your average millennial male. I mooched off my parents, I had zero direction and I was no closer to a career than my 10-year-old, "SpongeBob"-watching, Cheeto-fingered self.
I knew I needed change, but I always hoped for a change of circumstance, like a new girlfriend.
After burning through so many of them, I found myself a quarter of a century old with absolutely nothing to show for it.
I couldn't ignore the truth: My unhappiness and lack of success was my decision. So, I radically altered my decision-making process.
Three year later, I'm (finally) independent in the career I love.
And by sticking to five key decisions, I've shed my failure identity.
If you have a feeling you're meant for something more, here are the five decisions that will help you achieve more:
1. Control your morning thoughts.
Eternally sunny dispositions are the exceptions.
For the rest of us, we have to work hard to choose useful thoughts. The most important time to do it is first thing in the morning.
You can regret the shit storm that is your life, or you can be grateful for all the opportunities you have to improve.
You can feel oppressed by the things you know you have to do, or you can get stoked to do things that will make you rich and happy.
For every negative thought there is a positive spin waiting for your effort.
So, treat every morning as a challenge to shape your best thoughts, to weed out the negativity and to prepare for a sensational life.
No one else will do it for you.
Don't get out of bed until you've meditated on what you're grateful for, on the cool shit you get to do, on the people you get to help, on the people who've helped you, on the towering goals you're building toward, on your challenges and on your accomplishments.
Think useful thoughts.
2. Encourage yourself.
Think of the great coaches throughout history, like Phil Jackson and Pat Riley with the Bulls and Heat. These guys motivated their teams' championship efforts with kindness, not discouragement.
The best coaches look for and find the best in their players.
You are your own coach. Will you encourage yourself to succeed, or will you bash yourself into defeat?
I made a habit of bashing myself for the money I should've made and for the independence I hadn't earned.
But, the bashing never got me anywhere. I just felt more and more ashamed.
And as I saw others rising higher and higher, I felt more and more defeated.
When I made the effort to encourage myself no matter what, I finally found the support I needed to succeed. (It took me 27 years to figure this out, but better late than never.)
So, support yourself.
Do it by heading to the nearest mirror as soon as you spring out of bed. Describe all of the good things you see.
Comment on the man or woman you know you can be, the accomplishments you know you'll achieve and the encouragement you promise to give yourself along the way.
Then, anytime you start thinking negative thoughts during the day, fall back on your morning affirmations. If you don't have your back, who will?
3. Do real work.
Nothing happened in my writing career until I got disciplined with my time.
But after a solid year of blocking out my morning for writing (and strictly limiting email and social media for 10 minutes in the afternoon), I built a body of work.
From 8 am to 12 pm, dedicate your mornings to proaction. Ban all incoming information and direct yourself.
Otherwise, you risk being directed by people who don't care about your dreams. No email is going to kick ass for you, and neither will any number of Facebook or Twitter notifications.
So, do REAL work.
4. Set daily goals.
If you don't plan out action steps, you'll be battling against the world to accomplish anything.
Think of it like this: You have a billion different people all over the world vying for your attention over social media, TV, advertisements and the interwebs.
How will you compete with them for the life you want to live?
If you don't have big, juicy, self-directed goals that get you off your butt, you simply can't compete.
So, set goals for learning. Set goals for work accomplishments. Set goals for relaxing.
Set goals for fitness and fun. Set goals for your hobbies. Set goals for anything that will benefit your life as a balanced human being, no matter how big or small.
When you get into the habit of checking off the things you want and need to do, you'll be living the life of your design.
Success is only a matter of time.
5. Journal at the end of every day.
Your life is built on your thoughts. If you change your thoughts, you change your life. Journaling is the best way to do it.
Every thought you have influences your behavior, even the ones you don't know you have.
Those niggling subconscious thoughts are the reasons most people don't live the lives they want. But when you reflect and write down your thoughts at the end of each day, you make the subconscious conscious.
Then, you're in full control of what thoughts you reproduce the next day.
If you can't accept a certain limiting thought, you're free to choose a better thought to take its place, but only after you become aware of it.
So, every night, take 15 to 30 minutes to look back on the thoughts and actions that made your day. Jot them down.
You'll end up seeing all the invisible things that held you back. Making your thoughts concrete will give you confidence in your ability to change them, and you'll automatically come up with solutions for a better tomorrow.
Your life is the sum of your decisions, so take control of them.
Take charge of your day from the start with positive thinking and affirmations. Take ownership of your direction by setting daily goals and sticking with them.
Limit your distractions, and reclaim your subconscious by changing your thoughts with a journal.
It's hard, but who said life was easy? If the no-job, no-hope millennial who lived on his parents couch could do it, so can you.