Are you the master of your fate?
William Ernest Henley was an English Victorian poet, remembered for his poem ‘Invictus’, which carries the memorable last lines:
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
He had strong reasons to write those words.
From the age of 12, Henley had tuberculosis of the bone. This was extremely painful and involved frequent draining of his joints. At 20, his left leg was amputated below the knee. In his early twenties he spent three years in hospital to save his right foot from being amputated.
‘Invictus’ was one of many poems he wrote during those long days as a patient. He survived with his right foot still intact and worked for many years as a respected editor, critic and poet. When he was 53, a fall from a railway carriage reactivated the tuberculosis and he died.
The poem ‘Invictus’ (Latin for unconquerable or undefeated) came out of his years of physical and mental suffering and his daily choice not to let it get him down.
Napoleon Hill, the author of the perennially popular self-help book Think and Grow Rich wrote:
You are the master of your destiny. You can influence, direct and control your own environment. You can make your life what you want it to be.
Were these men right? Do we really have that much power over our life and its outcomes?
The short answer is:
Yes, as long as you’re at the helm every moment, making conscious choices.
William Henley and Napoleon Hill lived this way. They weren’t on automatic pilot. They made plans, set goals and time frames, and achieved what they did by paying attention to the moment they were in.
Henley didn’t imagine the pain he was going to experience next week. He focussed on getting through the pain of the present moment. Hill didn’t just think and suddenly grow rich. He made conscious choices and followed it up by doing things – in the Now.
Ultimately you are not taking responsibility for life until you take responsibility for this moment – Now. This is because Now is the only place where life can be found.
Living with mindfulness
Unexpected things can happen over which we have no control, like earthquakes, pandemics, job loss and death. But even then, what Henley and Hill wrote is still true. You can make your life what you want it to be by making conscious choices as life unfolds around you.
Life is always giving you choices.
With love, Marlane
First published on Medium.com/Illumination