Sunday, July 16, 2006

Did you make it to the starting line?

"Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved."
- William Jennings Bryan, American lawyer and politician (1860–1925)

People love to assemble coincidences in their minds to develop theories (or conspiracies) about all kinds of matters about which they know very little. That's how all superstition arose.

Destiny, free will and fatalism, all inextricably linked in the minds of many, fall into this category.

Were you born knowing what you would be as an adult? Did you know, before you could even speak, read or understand spoken words, whether you would be an architect, a spouse beater, a prostitute, a beggar or an institutionalized psychiatric patient? Could you feel any of these things were true of you as you progressed through the first years of childhood?

If not, then what you made of the life you got is the reason for the life you have.

But... But... But... Of course your environment played a huge role in what you were able to make of yourself. And of course no one taught you that you could make of yourself whatever you wanted to make, you could be what you wanted to be, and provided you with the skills and opportunities to reach them. We adults should do that for children, but we don't.

Few kids receive these opportunities. Most of us have the potential for taking advantage of opportunities squeezed out of us while we are still little. Do you think, for examples, that Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton or Leonardo da Vinci behaved any differently than you did when you were all in your first year of life?

The most difficult thing about building your own destiny is establishing a starting point and getting moving toward a goal. Most of us are so busy fussing over the annoying and delightful little details of life that we don't bother setting long term goals for ourselves. Most of those who do never reach the starting line.

Sadly, many of those who choose a life objective and work doggedly toward it did not consider the consequences of devoting themselves to being the best at something. You wouldn't really want to trade lives with any of the celebrities you know, with any of the extremely rich people you have heard about or with the political leader of your country. You would soon back away if you knew what their lives were really like, if you breathed their air.

When choosing an objective in life, we need to consider far more than simply the great benefits of those who succeeded at that lifestyle before us. For each great success, there was a cost that someone paid. Maybe more than one someone.

Sometimes just being pretty good at something, while still retaining a firm grasp of the wide range of meaningful components of life, makes for a pretty healthy and sustainably happy lifestyle.

Set your goals for life. Establish the lifestyle you propose to have while moving toward that goal. Consider the negative as well as the positive consequences of being in that place. When the weighing is done, make your choice.

Then move up to the starting line. It won't get closer on its own.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to show not just what life's goals are but also the choices we have to make to reach them.
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