Life is a series of actions and reactions, the interactions between us and others, between us and our surroundings, and between us and our own minds.
We wrestle with decisions every day, fighting against thoughts that could tend to derail us. We have expectations that we strive to achieve, provided we actually believe they are possible to achieve. We adjust to the things that happen to us, and are praised when we do it in a particularly solid and creative way.
Yay! We made the best of a bad situation! Congratulations! We got it done when others thought it couldn’t be done!
But the secret is much more damning, that we generally let the world happen around us, and we are pushed along with its ebb and flow like detritus caught in the waves. The positive things that happen in our lives are usually the result of being in the right place at the right time, or of capitalizing on something that happens to break the right way.
There’s a strong element of chance in how things go for us, even when we do our best to make things happen the way we want them to, and on some level we all know it. Think about when a team wins a championship and the star player thanks god for giving him or her the ability to compete at that level, or when a television producer gets up at an awards show and says how lucky he or she was to be in front of everyone accepting whatever award.
How much is chance, or luck, involved in what ultimately happens to us? I think about my own relationships — my friendships, my marriage — and I realize how much that can truly be applied even just to me and how things have gone in my life. If I hadn’t liked a particular band, and if my wife hadn’t liked the same band, and if we both hadn’t decided that band was worth it enough to join its internet mailing list…
The “Ifs” are endless, because every move we make is a move we didn’t make in another direction. We can’t possibly know how every single one of those moves would have turned out if we had made them. Is that chance, or is that destiny? Is that us making our own way, or is it something so far beyond our capability that in a million years we couldn’t make the same combinations occur if we tried?
You know, on a daily basis we do way more reacting than acting. We let things happen to us instead of going out and making things happen. That’s why we’re generally surprised when someone says they went out and made something happen. “Good for you!” we say, with our jaws hanging on the ground, and we say how we are now inspired to go out and make thing happen for ourselves.
Then we go right back to reacting. It’s human nature. I would say I have genuinely acted on two major occasions, and both times were major risks, but I took them because the possible outcomes were important enough to me not to leave them to chance, not to let the tide take me back out again with the other refuse.
You’d think since both those times turned out so well (one of them was deciding to move here to be with the woman I love) that I would take that as a sign I need to do more acting instead of reacting, that I should stop letting “destiny” bounce me around like a beach ball.
I am working on it, but it’s hard to fight human nature unless there’s something large at stake otherwise. The problem is seeing that each instance is something large in and of itself, that the possibilities are endless, that opportunities are vast and potentially phenomenal for those who take control of their own future.
I’m still working on it.