Today, I write to you about a big topic, destiny, a topic perhaps fitting to start the New Year since it’s a time given to big thoughts. Destiny is a concept that has fallen on hard times, perhaps seen as comically grand or scientifically unsound. We may find that invoking destiny to explain the direction of our lives is as superfluous as invoking Thor to explain thunder and midsummer storms.
One definition of destiny, I found, is “the hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future.”
I like this definition best, out of all the ones I found, because it remains agnostic about the nature of this “hidden power.” It could refer to God, to the clockwork mechanism of cause and effect that controls outcomes in a Newtonian universe, to some universal spiritual force, or, perhaps, to an inchoate longing in the gut or sense of deeper significance to our lives that lives somewhere within each of us.
Destiny need not invoke supernatural forces, although it can if you wish to it. It can, just as well, refer to a wisdom contained within us, a wisdom that might be hard to characterize in words because it is a wisdom that is bigger than what words can capture. After all, rational logic thought and language are but a subset of our brain’s functions. The source of this wisdom is broader, encompassing our entire minds and our bodies, including our hearts and guts.
There are good reasons to give thought to our destinies because, if it is at all a hidden power that grows within us, then we can shape it. One can say that a person will live out their destiny no matter what that person does, irrespective of how passively or actively they approach life as it unfolds, because what happens was meant to be. Even if we accept this proposition, it is not incompatible with believing that one can be an active participant in shaping one’s destiny. That road to shaping one’s destiny, however, is not a straight one. Destiny involves interplay between factors we can control and factors we cannot, and between things we can understand and things we cannot.
Given this conceptualization, the challenge we can accept is to shape the conversation between what is controllable and uncontrollable in our lives, such as between our desires, the limits of our capabilities, the nature of the opportunities that present themselves to us, and the life circumstances we find ourselves in. After all, none of us chose when, where, and to whom we are born to.
Consider this thought experiment: consider that at this very moment you were split into two people. As soon as the split occurs, each one of you starts to have a different conversation running in your heads. The decisions that each one of you makes, every day, differ and your two lives increasingly diverge the further you proceed into the future. After a month, let alone a year or a decade, each one of you will likely be surprised by the other, be leading different lives and perhaps be unrecognizable to the other.
So, in the spirit of the New Year, listen to your mind, heart and gut. What are you destined for? The world needs you; it needs you be the most aligned to your (semi-)chosen destiny.
What awaits you this year? What will you do? Who will you be? What will you be remembered for?
I believe that fulfilling one’s true destiny need not involve epic battles or grand changes. We need not all be Joan of Arc or General MacArthur. After all, in the scheme of things, everything we do is small: we live on a small planet in a big universe for a short period of time in a universe billions of years old. So big or small, the impacts we make are not that different in kind. The bigger difference is in whether we accept what comes passively or we choose to continually shape it.
Yours in a grand New Year,
“We’re here to put a dent in the universe.”
– Steve Jobs