Worried about Fate?
Your destiny is in your hands.
Published: June 8, 2012
Precious lessons from Lord of the Rings.
We are never fully in control of the circumstances that surround us, but we are in control of our responses, and therefore have more power over our destinies than we think.
Too many people feel they are at the mercy of fate. Too many others think all they have to do is wish for things to get better. But our lives only improve when we take action based on a grounded understanding of what it is we really want.
I use two different words to describe this “want” thing: think about the difference between them. The first is desire. Desire is part of our nature. But a desire is often an unformed thing, and just because we desire something it doesn’t follow that we are prepared to make the required effort to obtain it.
I define ambition somewhat differently: as a desire you are prepared to work for. You might desire to be a great musician, but that won’t happen unless you make that desire an ambition into which you pour your energy and your soul. Ambition still isn’t enough to ensure success. Millions of people get to the ambition stage and flounder because they don’t get to the next vital part of the success process: turning ambition into strategy.
But what is strategy? Don’t be intimidated by the term. Strategy is just a description of where it is you intend to go: a description of an achievement point on your life journey.
To use an example people all over the world will be familiar with, think of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic Lord of the Rings. Chances are you're familiar with the premise: in the battle between good and evil in Middle Earth, success for the good guys (an alliance of humans, elves, dwarves and hobbits) depends on the destruction of a gold ring which is the source of power of the bad guys.
Early in the story the good guys agree they must destroy this ring of power. The mythology of the story makes it clear that there is only one way to do so: to drop it back into the volcano Mount Doom in which it was forged. And that, to put it simply, is the “strategy.” The destruction of the evil ring by popping it back into the volcano. That's the crucial strategic decision taken by story's protagonists on which the rest of the story is based.
Note that when the strategy (destroy ring in volcano) is agreed upon, there is no detail attached. This is 'big picture', but that doesn't make it vague. It's important to recognize that the strategy is not a more general statement like defeat evil or save Middle Earth. Those would be ambitions and they lie behind our heroes' strategy, but are too vague to be called strategic in themselves.
The point is that the strategy is (just) detailed enough for everyone to have a clear picture of where they are going. But it's not bogged down detail about who is actually going to do it, or how. And here’s why: because strategy is about the big destinations in life.
Once your strategy is decided upon you can move to making plans, which is the bit where you decide when, who, how and so on.
Consider the consequences of not sorting out your strategy first. If you take substantial action without having a strategy, then whatever action you take and no matter how bold, skillful or indeed effective you are as an individual, it will be at best a matter of luck as to whether that action achieves results that are right for you. Let me stress that: if you take action without establishing strategy you are relying on luck!
In order to achieve substantive change in your life you need to consider “why” you are taking certain actions. The very act of asking “why am I doing this particular thing?” is a strategic act in itself. To act without asking the question is most probably not going to help you.
Remember the good guys in Tolkien's tale? Their desire was simply to live peacefully. Their ambition (which they were prepared to commit to) was to defeat the enemy who threatened them. And their strategy was to put the ring back into the volcano from which it originated.
And that's what I am asking you to create now, a strategy which is your own version of “put evil ring back in volcano.” Start by being clear about what you want (desires). Decide which desires you will commit to (ambitions). Think about the destination you must reach to achieve them. That’s your strategy.
I would wish you luck: but luck has nothing to do with it!
Simon Middleton is one of the UK's leading experts on brands and branding.