On Fate and Destiny
“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 allude to the future of a person but the former has negative connotations while the latter is neither positive nor negative… and I will explain why is that so.
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. Such is a dangerous proposition because it implies that we are not in control of our future. There is nothing we could do but go with the flow.
Conversely, destiny, as I said before, is neutral because it presents a future that is yet to happen, a story yet to be written. The reason I consider it neither positive nor negative is because things will go either way for you – good or bad – depending on the kind of story your life will turn out to be. You hold the pen, you have control as to what kind of life story you will be writing. You should not surrender that pen to other people and make them write your story for it may be written not the way you want. Let me say it one more time – take control.
Fate and destiny are both considered as predetermined course of events. However, fate is viewed as inevitable which is controlled by an unseen force while destiny is likened to a 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 one 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 to 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 everyday.” 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 a 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 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 live 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