Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Destiny and Choice

Back to our favorite topic: destiny.

Have you read Victor Frankl's truism: "between stimulus and response lies the freedom to choose"? It just hit me this morning - the clear distinction between destiny and choice:
  • Stimulus is destiny.
  • Response is choice.

I then thought, "what about when we respond to the stimulus in a manner that allows us victory over its adversity, its challenge?"

I realized that victory takes us to another level with larger and more forceful stimuli acting upon and challenging us. Consider the example of business. A small firm grows to a medium-sized one. It succeeds in growing, but it also meets larger challenges. From local challenge, it graduates on to national, and then global challenge.

This is true for personal life too. Childhood is tough, there is so much to learn and there is so little freedom (or so we think!). But every subsequent phase in life is tougher than the last.

What about when we have beaten every challenge? When we are the most gifted, most successful, the top ranking? This poses a strange challenge. Suddenly, we have conquered the external stimuli. Suddenly, there is no stimulus. Nothing to fight for or against.

Why, then, live?

I rested my cup of tea, and focused on this thought: what about the gifted? What about the winners? What about someone like, say, Bill Gates whose book I just leafed through last night? What about when you are on the highest rung? What do you do to live?

...And then the dots connected. Ever heard Iqbal's couplet about Khudi (self-respect, self-actualization)? "Actualize and take thyself to such a summit that God will ask thee before thy destiny is formed, 'What doth thee wish for?'"

[Microsoft tag line: Where do you want to go today?]

You create your own stimulus when you have conquered the standard ones. This is a freedom that comes with responsibility to oneself, to one's gifts. And it is a great test. Though a few get this choice in more flagrant ways (being the world's richest man, etc.), many of us have more choice than we think. Whether we choose to exercise this freedom or not may be the strongest test of our spirit and character.

Note: Pulled this unpublished piece from amongst the drafts on December 08, 2007.


  1. hmm...strange coincidence finding this particular post, because I'd just finished reading (learning) S.Covey's 7 habits...and Victor Frankl's truism was showcased there as well...well-written post & food for thought..

  2. Thanks. I also recently finished reading the 7 habits, which made linking my on-going thinking on destiny & choice with Frankl's lesson. Personally I feel that destiny is often generous to many of us. It is choice where we have the issue.

    A good choice takes advantage of an "average" destiny; and a bad choice can mar the best of bounties.

    (I couldn't help the play on the words "mars" and "bounty"....)

  3. I consider destiny to evolve from the choices we make. The pattern reflected from our choices is an image of our destiny.

    However, we are not born with any one particular destiny, we may hold the key (choices) to our million destinies however at each stop we sometimes conciously and other times spontaneously alter our destinies.

    This brings us to question and define personal successes. What we consider success for another is like you said a challenge for the other.. The richest man in the universe finds it challenging to be unchallenged and thats probably the drive to achieve greater success.

    It is like being trapped between two mirrors the sharper the angle the further you can see into either side but you are often left wondering what did I miss while I stepped deeper into left or the right mirror..

    Interesting blog!

  4. Nice one about the stimuli and response. Well i am not exactly sure about destiny and wont say much about her.She might be standing at my head reading my post and since I am maverick myself, I dont dont afford such adversities.

    But sometime i really feel that I overempahsize over the things i cannot do, rather than the things I can do. I would love to be on the cover of Playboy, but perhaps I am designed for some other things. I am not sure whether other people think the way i do or not.

    Infact a man of wisdom actually advised me that destiny and fortune are realities that are best not discussed. This come is Hadith perhaps (please do tell me about it, if you know). Though again our business-school skepticism might force not to put eveything under lens of scrutinty, shall some things be left uncomprehended rather than mis-comprehedned.

    What you have to say? :)

  5. @ Waleed:
    I'll have to agree. Meddling with destiny hasn't yielded very pleasant results for me in various experiences. In the end, I have learnt a lot, am always back at square one, and I feel like this is what I knew all the time so what was I doing anyway!

    It is strange. BTW my interest in destiny grew with a story called The Garden of Forking Paths.