Who’s In Control?

control

“Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her. But once
they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how
to play the cards in order to win the game.”
– Voltaire

Much has been written about fate and destiny. Those that I read presented varied opinions on whether or not those two concepts are one and the same with some claiming they can be interchangeably used and some arguing that one should not be mistaken for the other. There are assertions that fate and destiny both refer to what the future holds for you and me. However, that future, when viewed using the lens of fate, is negative and is neutral  – not really positive as you might have expected I would say – when seen from the vantage point of destiny.

The common thing that the literature I explored on the said constructs  clearly articulated is that both fate and destiny are manifestations of the future of a person but the former  has  negative connotations while the latter is neither positive nor negative… and I will explain why I view it that way.

Fate is negative because it is a belief that everything that happens to us in the future have  been set in stone. We cannot change our fate no matter how hard we try. That is a scary proposition because it implies that we are not in control of  our life and what will happen to us in the future. There is nothing we could do but go with the flow, dance to tune of whoever we believe designed our fate. That is we choose to believe it.

Conversely, destiny, as I said previously, is neutral because it presents a future that is yet to happen, a story not written yet. The reason I consider it neither positive nor negative is that things will go either way for you – good or bad – depending on the quality of the decisions you make in the different areas of your life.

I believe that I create my own destiny. I am writing my own story. You should do the same. You hold the pen,  you have control over how your story will turn out to be. You should not surrender that pen to other people and make them write that story for you because it may be written not the way you want. You should take control and try very hard not to commit mistakes in order to ensure that the destiny your create for yourself is a great one.

Fate and destiny are both considered a predetermined course of events. However,  fate is viewed as inevitable which is controlled by an unseen force while destiny is  likened to clay in the hands of a potter – it can be shaped as desired. Would you let others hold the mold and put the clay and let them be the ones to shape your future?

You ought to decide whether to accept that the life you live is tied to threads controlled by the puppeteer called fate or is it a book filled with empty pages and you’re holding the pen  and have that opportunity  to fill those pages with stories of triumphs and happiness. You may decide whether you will be living a fate assigned to you or you will be controlling your own destiny.

Fatalism, the doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them (Merriam-Webster, n.d.), has influenced the way people live life since time immemorial.  The danger with subscribing  to the idea that events in our lives are determined by the hand that  fate dealt with us is it leads to a passive life. Fatalism reduces a person to merely a driftwood on the waves being tossed to and fro.

Believing that success and failure are preordained, people  may not be motivated to give their best shot in any endeavor or be afraid to take risks in any way. They would simply wait for their future to unfold for they are sold to the idea that they are not in control. They believe that fate would bring them to where they should be anyway and would make them what they are meant to be. For them, there is not much (or nothing) that they could do but wait until their wheel of fortune grinds to a halt and hope that they hit the “jackpot” (and not the “bankrupt”) when it does stop.

Fatalistic people also believe that nobody knows what the future holds. But those who use the lens of destiny when viewing the future, while they accept that they don’t have the ability  to predict the future and determine what will happen eventually,  there’s nothing that can prevent them from preparing for it.  They know that there are variables they can control to make sure that the future will unfold the way they want it to happen. This is what extremely successful people do. They plan. They execute that plan. They take control of their future. Some of them would even say that they create their own future.

Innate in us is the capability to chart our own destiny. Living our fate or shaping  our own future is a matter of choice. Instead of waiting passively for the future, we should take control by laying out a plan to ensure that it unfolds the way we want it to happen.

Remember what Albert Camus said – “Life is the sum of all our choices.” “Our life,” as Myles Munroe puts it, “is the sum total of all the decisions we make every day.” It is then incumbent upon you to make the right choices all the time. And the first decision you need to make is whether you view yourself as the master of your fate or its slave. Are you in control of your  future or the puppeteer called fate is?

The fatalistic attitude of people stems from the doctrine of predestination upheld by most of the world’s monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism). The said doctrine maintains that whatever happens has already been determined by God. What if this means that God, omniscient and omnipresent that He is, only knows, and not controls, how our future unfolds based on the decisions we make as individuals? It doesn’t require a scientific mind to figure out that it doesn’t make sense that God gifted mankind with free will if after all He already preordained everything.

The Buddhists and Hindus believe that our destiny as humans is determined by our actions, thoughts, and words. If it is so, it is important to be careful with what we do, think, and say. We take control of our future by making sure that our actions, thoughts, and words  will bring us to the pinnacle of success and not perdition.

Creating our own destiny does not mean denying that certain aspects and events in life are inevitable and unavoidable. For instance, we could not choose the body we want and  the physical attributes we desire. We also could not choose the parents we were born to. When finally we face the mirror and contend with our personal realities, we could only wish that we were born to parents who would endow us not only with wealth but with good genes.

Yes, we could not control the circumstances of our birth. There’s no way we could also prevent people around us from making bad decisions that might adversely affect us. However, we can choose how we shall respond to all the limitations and unfavorable conditions that we encounter. We could not afford to be held hostage by them. We should never play the role of a helpless victim. Voltaire puts it this way – “Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her. But once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.”

As Sartre (1956) argued, “Predetermined nature, facticity or essence do not control who or what we are; moreover, one is radically free to choose one’s destiny and it is one’s moral responsibility to do so.”

The moment we become capable of deciding for ourselves and aware of our capabilities, was the moment we start charting our own destiny – that’s when we begin to be in control.  We should begin by embracing our limitations and recognizing which aspects of our life were not properly put in place by the people who were in charge of us when we were young and incapable of making decisions for ourselves. Limitations and unfavorable conditions can be overcome if one so desires. This May (1981)  articulated by saying, “Fate is that  which cannot be changed about a person, such as gender and race. Destiny is that which can be created from what was given.”

Aside from the circumstances of our birth, the only other thing we have no way of avoiding is death. We don’t know when it would come, except to those who are terminally ill and predicted by doctors to have only a certain time left to live. We’ll never know how long we live and how soon we breathe our last. This presents us with a choice – live our life to the fullest and make every moment count or live in fear trembling at the thought of the Moirae named Atropos coming any moment to cut our life-thread.

References:

Fatalism. (n.d.). In merriam-webster.com. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fatalism

Sartre, J. P. (1956). Being and nothingness. (H. Barnes, Trans.). NewYork: Washington Square Press.

 May, R. (1981). Freedom and destiny. New York: W.W. Norton

Hanggang Sa Kawalang-Hanggan

Kita’y katabi, tag-araw o tag-lamig
Kaulayaw ka maging sa panaginip
Mga puso nating iisa ang pintig
Binigkis tayo sa tunay na pag-ibig

Sinamahan akong maglakbay sa dagat
Bangka ko’y nilagyan ng katig at layag
Araw kang sa umaga ko ay sumikat
Sa buhay naging sandigan ko’t lakas

Lagi kang nandoon, ‘di ako iniwan
Handa ka palagi na ako’y damayan
Matindi mang dagok sa buhay dumaan
Sa lungkot at saya ako’y sinamahan

‘Di ako iniwan, lagi kang nandoon
Buhay mo tila sa akin nakatuon
Kasama kita sa paglipas ng panahon
Mga pagsubok, sabay nating sinuong

Ano man ang ating mga pinagdaanan
Kamay ko ay mahigpit mong hinawakan
Pagmamahal mong sa aki’y pinaramdam
Ang ligayang dulot walang mapagsidlan

Pagmamahal mo ri’y tila isang paham
Gurong araw-araw akong tinuturuan
Kay daming aral sa ‘yo ko natutuhan
Pintig ng puso mo ako’y ginagabayan

Napakaraming taon man ang lumipas
Pagmamahal mo nanatiling matingkad
Tamis ng ngiti mo ay hindi kumupas
Hindi ko nanaising ito’y magwakas

Pag-ibig ko sa ‘yo, mananatiling wagas
Daang taon man sa panaho’y malagas
Mga kamay mo’y mananatiling hawak
Kawalang-hanggan ma’y marating ang wakas

On Self-Belief and Other Related Constructs

Business Power Concept. Strong Businessman

As the term implies, self-belief is a person’s faith or complete trust and confidence  in their  abilities and skills and value  as a human being. Consider it as a combination of self-confidence and self-worth.

Self-belief is an essential component in a person’s pursuit of success and happiness. If you don’t have it, don’t expect to achieve anything  for without self-belief a person will never succeed in any kind of endeavor. But too much of it is not good either. An exaggerated opinion of one’s own qualities and abilities is called self-conceit. The Greeks refer to it as hubris.

Self-belief is a concept not difficult to comprehend  yet not too many really know how having or not having it would affect their lives in general. Some may have chosen to disregard it not fully understanding the possible negative consequences for neglecting it.

If you won’t trust in your own abilities and skills… if you won’t believe that you are valuable, no else would.  If you want others to believe in you, you have to convince them first that you believe in yourself. And even if nobody believes in you but yourself, you are in a strong position in life.

The issue is not what other people say and think about what you can and can’t do and achieve but rather whether or not you believe in your own capabilities and worth as a person. The disbelief of people around you won’t move the needle of your success. It is your self-belief that would. People not believing in you won’t kill your dreams and ambitions, your self-doubt would. 

Self-doubt is by no means just a simple problem. It is a very serious one. A person is in serious trouble when they doubt themselves and when they think they are worthless. The failure of people to develop self-belief stems from them not understanding the nature of self-doubt. In a separate essay – “Self-doubt: The Unknown Sin” –  I discussed the said concept  extensively.

Self-belief   should serve as the starting point of all self-improvement activities.  Any personal growth and development program should start with the elimination  of self-doubt. Imagine self-doubt as old wineskins and all the attitudes, beliefs, and skills you need for self-improvement, altogether, like new wine. You should not pour the new wine to the old wineskins. The Lord Jesus Christ warned –  “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins (Mark 2:22).”

There are several constructs that are construed to be the same or somewhat related to self-belief, namely self-concept, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-image. These concepts have been explored extensively and a vast body of literature has been created for each of them.  There are numerous articles available explaining how similar and different are they from each other. But if you examine the bottom lines of the said constructs, all of them  lead to the notion that people need to develop their faith or complete trust and confidence  in their abilities and skills and also to  value  themselves as human beings.

The primary objective of all activities recommended by experts  for the improvement of  self-concept, self-esteem , self-efficacy , and self-image is the development or strengthening of self-belief. If all ideas related to these constructs are to be synthesized into one single idea, very likely that that the term self-belief would be used.

This article does not intend to deal with specific details about these concepts but only their definitions  to see how they relate to self-belief.

Let’s take a look at self-concept first. As explained by McLeod (2008), self-concept is a general  term used to refer to “how people think about, evaluate, or perceive themselves. To be aware of oneself is to have a concept of oneself.”  Additionally, “self-concept is an overarching idea we have about who we are—physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and in terms of any other aspects that make up who we are (Neill, 2005).”

Your self-concept is a collection of  your beliefs about yourself.To be aware of what beliefs you hold about yourself is instrumental in the development of self-belief. Your self-concept would help you identify what negative perceptions you hold about yourself. Self-belief doesn’t mean ignoring or sweeping under the rag what you consider as your weaknesses  but rather accepting them. But accept them only if after serious introspection you will find them to be true. What comes next after that is you exerting   conscious  efforts to address them. Self-concept enables you to identify what are your problems and deficiencies which need correction. The process of self-improvement includes not just finding and developing your strengths but also identifying your negative attributes and getting rid of them.

What about self-esteem? This concept refers to the extent to which we like, accept or approves of ourselves, or how much we value ourselves (McLeod, 2008).”  Harter (1986) added that “self-esteem is the evaluative and affective dimension of the self-concept, and is considered as equivalent to self-regard, self-estimation, and self-worth.”

Think of self-esteem as a self-appraisal that leads to an honest valuation of yourself. The more positive is your self-appraisal (or the stronger your self-belief is) the higher is your self-esteem.

A low self-esteem – a person’s failure to value themselves as a human being – leads to a variety of problems that can affect a person’s personal and professional pursuits, health, and relationships.

If we go back to the definition of self-belief at the beginning of this article, we can say that half of this construct is self-concept and the other half is self-esteem.  

Next is self-efficacy. Bandura (1994) defines  the term as people’s belief about their capabilities to produce designated  levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives. Self-efficacy beliefs determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves, and behave.

The foregoing definition shows the thin line that separates self-belief from self-efficacy. That thin line may not even exist. 

“People with a strong sense of self-efficacy,”  as Bandura explained, “develop a deeper interest in the activities in which they participate, form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities, recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments, and view challenging problems as tasks to be mastered.”

These exactly are what people with a strong self-belief (are and) do – they know what particular skills and capabilities they have, nurture and use them as leverage to achieve success;  they are not afraid to fail and when they do they bounce back; and they face and conquer challenges and difficulties.

Seemingly, self-belief is just another word for self-efficacy.

Now, let’s take a look at self-image. The Meriam-Webster English Dictionary defines the said construct  “as the way you think about yourself and your abilities or appearance.” That, too, is almost exactly how we define self-belief.

According to Dr. Maltz (1993), “Whether we realize it or not, each of us carries a mental blueprint or picture of ourselves. It may be vague  and ill-defined  to our conscious gaze. In fact , it may not be consciously recognizable at all. But it is there, complete down to the last detail. This self-image is our own  conception of the ‘sort of  person I am.’ It has been  built up from our own beliefs about ourselves. But most of these beliefs have been formed from our own past experiences, our successes and our failures, and the way  people have reacted to us.”

Bob Proctor once said that when you stand in front of a mirror you see a reflection of the physical you. But that’s not the real you. You also have a picture of yourself in your mind. That, according to him, is what Dr. Maltz postulated – that people have two images of themselves, the one that’s coming back from the mirror and the other one is their inner image.

The kind of inner image, that self-image  you hold constitute your self-belief. If you have a poor self-image, it  means you don’t have faith in your skills and capabilities and that you have a low self-worth.

 There are a plenty to learn form the literature and studies conducted on self-concept, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-image. Anybody serious in developing a strong self-belief should take a look at them. What I presented in this article about the constructs aforementioned barely scratched the surfaces of each of them.

Let me end with a quote from Alexander Dumas:

“A man who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.”

References:

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Self concept. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/ self-concept.html

Neill, J. (2005). Definitions of various self constructs: Self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-confidence & self-concept. Wilderdom. Retrieved from http://www.wilderdom.com/self/

Harter, S. (1986). Processes underlying the construction, maintenance and enhancement of the self-concept in children. In Suls, J. and Greenwald, A.G. (eds), Psychological Perspectives on the Self. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, vol. 3, pp. 137–181

Maltz, M. (1993). Psycho-Cybernatics. New York: Prentice Hall Press.

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