Studies suggest that an average person makes 35,000 choices per day. And you will be surprised by this – “Assuming that most people spend around seven hours per day sleeping and thus blissfully choice-free, [they make] roughly 2,000 decisions per hour or one decision every two seconds (Krockow, 2018).” You are about to complete one decision right now – and that is to continue reading. Thanks for that and I hope you decide to read on until the end.
We are in constant decision-making mode. In a span of one minute, adults make more decisions than breaths. But it is not my intention though to dig deeper into the scientific details of this decision-making process – like what behavioral scientists claim that 90% – 95% of our decisions are made subconsciously.
I just wish to point out what I consider as the ultimate consequences of the choices we made in the past and continue to make everyday.
You want to know? Read on.
The results of the collective decisions we made and continue to make are the following – what we have become and the kind of life that we live.
The person you are now – physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, spiritually (that is if you, like me, believe that God exists), whatever you have accomplished, and where you currently stand in the socio-economic stratum are the consequences of the all the choices you made in life. You and your life are the products of your choices.
To explain further, I could cite several studies (the way I did in the first paragraph of this essay) and mention the contributions made by famous philosophers on the subject. But I decided not to go that route but instead share what characters in some movies said about making choices and how they shape us as a person and affect the quality of our life.
Before we revisit those quotes from movies, just allow me to drop what Albert Camus, a philosopher, said about the topic we are exploring – “Life is the sum of all our choices.”
I don’t believe in the doctrine of predestination upheld by the followers of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. It just doesn’t make sense to me why God would give us free will if after all He already preordained everything. What I subscribe to, even if I am a Christian, is what the Buddhists and Hindus believe that our destiny as humans is determined by our actions, thoughts, and words. We therefore shape our own future through the decisions we make. The quality of our choices will establish our value as a person and determine the kind of life we live.
As Dr. Emmet Brown said in the movie “Back to the Future” – “We all have to make decisions that affect the course of our lives.” We have to do what we ought to. Subscribing to the doctrine of predestination would make us live passively waiting how the future that the God we believe designed for us would pan out.
Fatalism is fatal. To think that events in your life are fixed in advance and that you are powerless to change them is a death sentence. Tomorrow is yet to happen and you could control how the events would play out if you choose to. Your life is an empty script. You and you alone hold the pen. It is a travesty if you allow others to write the story of your life.
The next hours (or days, or weeks, or months, or years) are yet to happen. You can plan ahead. You can control the events of tomorrow. But only if you want. Gandalf of the “Lord of the Rings” fame comes to mind. He said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
If you are not happy where you are you might want to consider what Chuck Noland in “Cast Away” told himself – ”I would rather take my chance out there on the ocean than to stay here and die on this s_ _ _hole island, spending the rest of my life talking… to a goddamn volleyball.
That exactly was my situation the year before I decided to cross the seas to become an expat teacher here in South Korea. My version of a s_ _ _ hole was that principal’s office which was like a lonely desolate island. I went there when I escaped from another s_ _ _ hole of place a year prior.
I chose not stay on those places for the simple reason that I did not have peace of mind, where I know I wouldn’t grow personally and professionally. So I did what I had to do.
What about you? How long have you been stranded in your own s_ _ _ hole island talking to your “Wilson”? When do you intend to make a move?
My loved ones and friends considered my going to South Korea in 2012 as ill-advised. I was being paid handsomely by the Pakistani owners of that Philippine school where I was. I had other sources of income as well. It was seemingly unwise (for them) for me to still want to work overseas at that time. That was for them but for me I don’t take risks (not even calculated ones) when it comes to my career. Teaching overseas was part of my career pathing.
I knew the path I was taking. I believed in what Santosh Patel said in the movie “Life of Pi” – “How can he find his own way if he does not learn to choose a path?” I chose the path that I felt would bring me closer to the realization of my dreams. I was earning quite satisfactorily (as far as Philippine standards are concerned) at that time but I was still so far away from my dream of financial independence.
But it was not all about money. During those times, I was facing a personal crisis and I felt I had to do something. I had to do one life-altering decision. That decision was propelled by both personal and professional motives. I was like Jake Sully, the main character in “Avatar,” saying – “Sometimes your whole life boils down to one insane move.”
Like Jake Sully you need to tame a toruk – yourself. I needed to tame a toruk – myself. We all need to be a Toruk Makto. Let the toruk we tamed bring us to the realization of our goals and dreams.
The “Land of the Morning Calm” was the perfect place for me to tame and rein my own toruk.
There are times when we have to make difficult decisions. And I could tell you that leaving my family and my comfort zone to face the uncertainties that going to (and working in) a foreign land brings was one of the hardest choices I had to make. And “the hardest choices require the strongest will” says the toughest nemesis of the Avengers (Yes! It’s Thanos.) Don’t be afraid to make hard decisions if you need to. Just make sure they are neither illegal nor immoral.
Before I end, allow me to give one more line from a movie – “Life is a choice. You can choose to be a victim or anything else you’d like to be.” That’s from Socrates, not the philosopher but one of the characters in the movie “Peaceful Warrior.”
It is my sincere hope that when your hair turns gray you would not repeat the lines delivered by Mike Banning (“London Has Fallen”) – “I am made of bourbon and poor choices.”
Let me end with an argument presented (not by a movie character this time but by Jean-Paul Sartre, a French philosopher), “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.”
Krockow, E.M. (2018). How many decisions do we make each day?. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.sychologytoday.com
Sartre, J. P. (1956). Being and nothingness. (H. Barnes, Trans.). NewYork: Washington Square Press.
“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.”
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.
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
Much has been written about fate and destiny. Those that I read have 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 us. However, that future, when viewed using the lens of fate, is negative and is positive when seen in the perspective of destiny.
The common thing that the literature I explored on the subjects clearly articulated is that they both allude to the future of a person but fate does so negatively and destiny positively.
Fate is negative because it is a belief that everything that happens to us in the future have already been set in stone. We can not change our fate no matter how a…
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