“Fate vs. Destiny”
Picture this: a woman finds a $100 bill on the sidewalk as she is out for her usual morning walk. She has done nothing different: she followed her same path, left at the same time, and is moving at the same pace. This is FATE.
Picture this: a woman is running behind schedule one morning. She leaves half an hour late for her morning walk, only to find that her sidewalk route is blocked off for construction. Now she has to walk a new morning route. She hasn’t had her coffee so she is moving slower. Twenty minutes into the walk—on a sidewalk she has never walked before—she sees a $100 bill, just waiting to be grabbed. This is destiny.
So what’s the difference? Well, first it is important to understand what these two words have in common. Fate & destiny both refer to the idea that forces outside of our control influence our lives. The picture above is an interesting example. The idea of fate or destiny is like the rolling of dice: we can’t control what numbers they will land on. It is just how it is. Fate might mean the inevitability of death; destiny could refer to how someone has won the lottery. Those elements impact our lives, but we don’t have the power to control the outcome. While both terms refer to uncontrollable forces working in our lives, the two words do have some unique differences.
Choice vs. Chance
Let’s say I am gambling, betting my life savings on the dice table hoping that I can make a small fortune to help support my family. I can’t control the way the dice roll, so I am at the mercy of fate/destiny—that “force” that impacts my life. The fact that I chose to gamble my money and that I chose to pick up the dice would mean this is an example of destiny. Destiny suggests that our choices help lead us to our needed “destination” (see—destination has ‘destiny’ as a root word, meaning arrival). All of the choices that I have made have led me to this moment; it lined up magically. When I roll a 7 and win $100,000, it was destiny at work.
Fate is an outcome that we have no control over; we can not choose or influence what is going to happen in any way. Fate is inevitable. So I am at a casino because my job has sent me there. My boss told me to meet him at the casino slot machines at 10:30 a.m. I am waiting and he isn’t showing. Someone comes along, sees a quarter on the ground, and gives it to me. I think, “Hey, free quarter. Why not plug the slot just this once.” I put the quarter in and hit the jackpot. $250,000 in one pull! This is fate…the forces at work in the world put me here to win this money. Yes, I chose to put the quarter in, but really, everything else was out of my hands. It just “worked out that way.”
Positive vs. Negative Associations
Because fate means we have no control or choice, fate is often used in connection with the negative experiences in life. A death or significant loss might be blamed on fate; missing out on a love connection would be fate’s fault; a string of negative events that land me in jail might be a twist of fate.
Destiny, then, is often associated with those moments where we realize “everything worked out for the better.” Suffering through the loss of my father but learning how to appreciate my mother; watching the love of my life walk out of my life, only to run into her again five years down the road; experiencing a series of poor jobs only to land my dream job—these are examples of those “forces of life” working out for the better, and so we use the term destiny. Again, destiny is the idea that “this is where I was meant to be.” Fate seems to be that feeling of “I can’t control these things that are influencing my life.”
Choice vs. Control
Many people dislike the idea of fate because it suggests that we (humans) have no control of our lives. Phrases like “whatever will be, will be” or “everything happens for a reason” are suggestions that we can not control what happens to us. Fate puts us in situations and we simply have to figure out how to respond. Fate pushes us towards our future—we feel like we are making choices, but really we are just walking the path that has been laid out for us. Fate mentality: No matter what I do I can never change where my life is headed.
Destiny, on the other hand, suggests that we have choice in life. The catch is that the outcome is already decided. The idea of destiny is often used when we experience a moment where everything lines up. Destiny mentality: All of my choices have led to this moment and this final decision. It is my destiny.
Consider the two pictures below:
The example on the left shows only one path to walk. An individual may feel like he or she has choices, but they are just being pushed by fate. The individual wouldn’t know this as he or she was walking, but looking back he or she would realize: I was just following what fate had laid out.
The example on the right shows numerous path options. Each new arrow represents a personal choice—the individual decides to go a different direction. Some paths branch off only to reconnect down the road. Some paths lead to all new, unique experiences. Regardless of all of the choices, however, the individual has ended up at the same end point for every path he or she chose to follow. Destiny means we make choices but still end up at the same point—the moment we were “supposed” to reach. The individual reaches this end point and realizes: this is where I was meant to be all along.
So in the end…
Fate is more of a pushing force that leads us down a specific path; destiny means we make choices that lead to “where we should be.” Both ideas, however, share one basic commonality: the belief that moments in our life are “bigger” than us and out of our control.