Fate vs. Freewill: How to Fulfill Your Life’s Purpose

DenaFebruary 9, 2011

What determines the course of our lives? Is it fate? Are our life paths predetermined by a higher power? Or is it freewill? Are we the masters of our own destinies in a random universe?

At least once a day, I say: “Everything happens for a reason.” But what exactly does that mean? Is there really a reason for everything? And if so, what is it?

No one can really answer these questions, but it’s important to give it thought.

The Arguments

Philosophers and religious figures have been having the—Fate vs. Freewill—debate for centuries. On one hand, there are those who believe in Fate. This group includes many religious people. If you believe in a God then you likely believe that that God is responsible for the creation of the universe and all of the happenings within it. Everything that happens in every person’s life is God’s will. Also in this category are the non-religious people who don’t necessarily believe in a God, but do believe in an ordered universe, karma, and destiny.

God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now. You were never not coming here. —Sufi poem

On the other hand, there are those who believe in Freewill. They believe that every individual is entirely responsible for everything that happens in his own life. There is no God and no destiny. Life is random. Some skeptics and atheists fall into this category.

Then of course, there are those in the middle. This group believes that our lives are a combination of Fate and Freewill. We can not know for certain whether our lives are governed by Fate or Freewill or both. As unenlightened human beings, we are not capable of acquiring this knowledge. However, we are capable of feeling what guides us. Sometimes, the feeling of what guides us is so strong, that it takes control of our lives. We may feel a God guiding us; we may feel Fate guiding us; we may feel only Freewill guiding us; and so on. Each of our experiences is different.

In my own life, I feel both Fate and Freewill guiding me. How can this be? I will share a story that captures my beliefs.

The Old Man and the Storm

One night an old man had a dream that a storm would come and wipe away his village, but that God would protect him. As expected, a terrible storm came to his village the next day.

On the first day of the storm, the old man’s brother came and warned the old man to get out of the village straight away. The conditions would grow worse. The old man refused, knowing that God would protect him. On the second day, a neighbor came through. He was fleeing with his family and offered to take the old man with them. The old man denied this help because he was sure that God was going to protect him.
 On the third day, the man took to his roof as the storm waters raged below. A group of villagers came by on a boat and offered to take him to safety. Again, the old man refused knowing that God had promised to protect him.

Soon after, the old man drowned and died. In heaven, he asked God: “Why didn’t you help me as you promised?”

God replied: “I sent your brother, your neighbor, and even a boat; but you declined my help.”

This story shows us that life is a combination of Fate and Freewill. Fate (God, destiny, the universe) may be present in our lives, but ultimately, we must utilize our own Freewill to fulfill our potential.

Create Your Destiny through Fate

The question remains: How do we create our own destiny and fulfill our life’s purpose if we don’t even know whether we are governed by Fate or Freewill?

God said to the nation of Israel: “I have put life and death before you . . . and you must choose life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20)

We do not have to be religious or to worship any God to understand the wisdom in this Bible verse. It is in our power to create our own destiny through Fate. It takes awareness, passion, and commitment but every person is capable of doing this. Here are some ways to get started:

1. Look for signs — The universe is constantly sending us signs. We must choose to acknowledge those signs, accept them, and take action.

Have you ever had a gut-feeling about something? That gut-feeling is your intuition speaking to you. Too often people ignore their intuition and that is a grave mistake! It is your job to listen to your intuitive instincts and take action (Freewill).

2. Follow your passion — Fulfilling your life’s purpose means living out your passion. Align the various elements of your life with your passion—your career, hobbies, free time, the people around you, your surroundings, and so on.

The more you live your passion, the closer you will come to reaching your destiny. Do what makes you come alive.

3. Have faith — If you are a religious person or even a spiritual person, then you already know exactly what faith is. But you can have faith, even if you are not religious or spiritual. Faith is knowing and believing in something even if you can not see it. For example, I have never seen a million dollars, but I know that it exists.

Faith is the energy that will take you through life, guide you over challenges, and allow you to be the master of your own destiny even when times get tough. Always have faith that if it is not okay, it is not the end.

4. Work for it — Finally, you’ll have to work. Work hard and work smart. Whether it is Fate or Freewill guiding you, these things mean nothing if you don’t put in the work that it takes to fulfill your life’s purpose.

There are no short cuts in life. There are no magic bullets. Accomplishments and greatness are a result of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. The harder and smarter that you work, the luckier you’ll get. It’s not a coincidence.

What are your thoughts? Do you believe that Fate or Freewill guides your path? Or are you like me, believing that it is a combination of both? Have you ever had a life-changing experience that has caused you to favor one idea or the other?

Let us know in the comments.

Comments (18)

  • Mid-Atlantic SAE

    February 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    evolution you | Fate vs. Freewill: How to Fulfill Your Life's Purpose http://bit.ly/eYaQBP

  • Dena Botbyl

    February 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    evolution you | Fate vs. Freewill: How to Fulfill Your Life's Purpose http://bit.ly/eYaQBP

  • Dena Botbyl

    February 10, 2011 at 3:36 am

    What guides your life path? If it Fate or Freewill? http://bit.ly/eYaQBP

  • Lorra

    February 10, 2011 at 5:14 am

    I find that sometimes it is very difficult to tell the difference between paranoia and a gut-feeling, especially if you’ve had a bad pattern of something going on in your life.
    For instance, when my boyfriend vanishes (due to his bipolar disorder) I know he is just holed up in his apartment, needing solitude. I don’t like it, but I know what he is doing. However, at first, I automatically thought he was vanishing because of how other people in my past have behaved.
    It felt exactly the same. Was I being paranoid, or was it a red-flag?
    This time it was not a red-flag, but I reacted as if it was.
    Mostly I agree with you, but sometimes, intuition is paranoia.

    1. Dena

      February 10, 2011 at 9:30 am

      @ Lorra – Yes, there is an enormous difference between paranoia and intuition. Patterns of the past can definitely impact our thoughts & actions in the present. It’s really important to be aware and to remain conscious enough to recognize the difference between paranoia vs. intuition.

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. It is wonderful to feel your presence here. xo

  • Tessa Zeng

    February 12, 2011 at 1:07 am

    I believe that our free will in itself is predetermined, as is our humanity & the fact that we are born as unique individuals. Beyond that, though, what you do with your existing potential is up to you. At every moment it could be argued that our actions are determined by who we are, but also that we are free to evolve & be as much of ourselves as possible for the rest of our lives.

  • Dena

    February 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    @ Tessa – I never thought of it this way. Sounds like you also view it as a combination, but you are taking it even a step further — our freewill ITSELF is actually predetermined. The idea that what we “do with our existing potential is up to” us is incredibly empowering. I love it.

    Thank you so much for sharing & stopping by!

  • Lorra

    February 13, 2011 at 1:26 am

    I know there is an enormous difference, but it can be very very hard to differentiate sometimes.

    1. Dena

      February 13, 2011 at 9:45 am

      @ Lorra – Yes. Again, you are absolutely right. It can be very hard to differentiate — especially when experiences from the past are repeated in the present. Our ego & spirit do not want to get hurt again so they send us a “warning” signal. It may feel like intuition, but actually it is just a conditioned response.

  • Drew Costen

    February 13, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    I believe in determinism. Meaning, while we have the freedom to choose, our choices themselves are predetermined by a combination of our nurture and nature (our life experiences and our genetics). I’m not sure of any way around that unfortunately, so I find it impossible to believe in free will.

    1. Dena

      February 13, 2011 at 11:19 pm

      @ Drew – Thank you so much for the comment. This is a really excellent point! In addition to Fate vs Freewill I am also really interested in the Nature vs Nature discussion. I am so glad you brought it up here. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It’s so great to have various angles brought into the conversation. Perhaps I’ll have to do a Nature/Nurture post sometime soon.


  • Tessa Zeng

    February 14, 2011 at 3:08 am

    I believe our free will is determined in our individual potentials. What about you? } RT @denabotbyl: Fate vs. Freewill http://bit.ly/eYaQBP

  • changiz

    October 26, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    well, I strongly believe that it is a fate. Tell me, a baby born blind, crippled.  A person born black or brown. A person born with beautiful voice in middle of the nowhere. A person born a cave man. A person born the son of i rich man . what they could have done when they were in mother  womb.

    1. Satish

      March 21, 2014 at 7:22 am

      Dear Changiz

      whatever you said it make some sense I am not sure if you believe in Incarnation or not but there are certain things missed in your previous lives with certain individuals and you have to come back and meet them.
      What about infant death. Is that fate, destiny or free will ? but yeah..somethings are pre determinded and some we contribute to that pre determined phenomenon..

  • Ashley Lorelle

    January 28, 2012 at 7:08 am

    I am someone who believes that it is a combination of fate and freewill. As a Wiccan, I know to follow my instincts when making a decision. I do not wait for a miracle from God (such as in The Old Man in the Storm) I understand that if I have a bad feeling about something then I must think clearly about what choice I make. But we all have choices. We can influence fate with our freewill.

  • PhilosophicaLipinsky

    December 10, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Personally, i think that our whole concept has been off since the time the bible was written. Man has followed the writings of people before us for as long as we know, but what if that’s where we went wrong? What if everything that we have done as a human race is something that has lead to its downfall? Their is no other species that lives by the laws we live by for a specific reason. Man may make up laws but nature will never live by them. We can’t control nature even tho we try so much, in doing so we have ruined the very planet we inhabit. We take so many of those elements that the earth needs to stay alive and be able to sustain its stable environment, that its finally taking its tole. if you think of the earth as a human it need specific nutrients to keep itself going. Us humans need some of those to survive and the earth realizes that and created enough for us along with the other animals that inhabited this planet. as we keep taking away from the earth it gets more malnourished and in turn starts to do what it is doing rt now. The earth perfected the life cycle as a ginormous molecule which can reproduce its elements by melting them down as the crust is turned into lava and magma in the core and then released through volcano’s making more land. which is why that land is fertile because its full of everything it will need to make it all the way back around till it is turned back into lava thousands of years later. We as people are only on this earth for a blink of an eye in earth time yet we have caused damage that will effect this earth for thousands of years to come. This is all because we lost the natural instincts that all species are supposed to have and trained ourselves with religion and a way of life. we are not supposed to live like we have a fate and we are not supposed to live like we are free willed. For life is unpredictable and even when we may feel like we know what were doing we really have no idea. As everything is made of atoms that have an unpredictable pattern so is the earth, but we don’t see ourselves as what helps the earth do what it does we see the earth as what helps us do what we do.

    1. Anonymous

      October 30, 2017 at 10:23 am

      You really believe that there is no point to the earth, just we’re “destroying it” and “ruining our own lives”? The people that you mention clearly are not the crazy ones here. There is a point to many things, like humans. I’m religious, and now you’re like, oh, no point in listening any more, well, you’re just as stubborn as a mule with that attitude. I believe that God put us all here, and the bible states why. I believe it because when I read the bible, I can easily understand what it all means, and it is very clear to me what it’s trying to say. I get different beliefs, but the assumption that NOTHING has a purpose? That’s idiotic!

  • Erika D Evans

    December 8, 2017 at 11:14 am

    I am torn. I just found Christianity again a month ago. I missed my opportunity to have a happy life with someone I love and it is now gone. Is it fate or free will I don’t know. I pray I have a future with a man because I want to live out my life with a partner. I miss him every day my ex, but, I can not go back to him for multiple reasons. Is out destiny pre determined and can we ruin it with free will?

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