Choosing your own destiny

The word ‘destiny’ means different things to different people. So as part of our journey towards becoming antifragile it is important to be clear about the meaning we are using here.

Like the word ‘destination’, the word ‘destiny’ looks to the future: to the place that we are heading towards. But its meaning has also changed over the years.

Originally, the Latin word destinare meant “to make firm or establish.” This gives us one meaning of the word ‘destiny’: as something that is fixed and unchangeable, ‘pre-destined’.

But just because we set out towards a destination doesn’t automatically mean that we will get there. We might set out for the airport but get caught in traffic. We might plan a holiday but find that a global pandemic forces us to stay home for two years. (Unlikely, I know, but possible.) So, over time, the meaning of the Latin word destinare changed to reflect this deeper truth. It came to mean, “the action of intending something for a purpose.”

So what we really mean when we say that our ‘destination’ is the airport is that we are intending to go to the airport for the purpose of catching a plane. But if the traffic is heavy, we might have to change our plans.

And if we define our ‘destiny’ this way then we give ourselves the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances. In a time of massive change this is likely to be extremely useful.

When people use the word ‘destiny’ to mean something that is fixed, inevitable, pre-ordained it assumes their destiny is out of their control, which stops them trying to shape it: it removes their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. In a time of massive change, this is a problem.

But when we use the word ‘destiny’ to mean “something that we are intending, for a purpose,” then we put ourselves back in control. We give ourselves the extra focus, energy, and enthusiasm that come from knowing the purpose of what we are doing. And if things don’t turn out the way we expected then it’s no big deal — we simply find new ways of achieving the same purpose.

This is the sense in which Inner Leadership uses the word ‘destiny’. Our destiny is not fixed. It’s an outcome we intend, in order to achieve a purpose. And if the world changes then we can change with it.

In this time of churning, this shift in outlook is another step towards becoming antifragile: using change to become stronger.

Have you chosen your destiny: an outcome you intend to create, for a purpose you want to achieve? Would you like to have the extra energy, focus, and flexibility this would bring?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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