Things to Think About: Making Things Happen



“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” – Leonardo daVinci

I loved this quote when I saw it, and then almost immediately started questioning it.  This is a tough one. I’m certainly not one to pooh-pooh the wisdom of daVinci, and I’ve been accused of making a fair number of things happen in my day!  Part of my favorite brand of therapy (ACT) advises us to identify our values, set our goals that lead us in the direction of our values, and get busy working toward them.

At the same time, other wise people advise us to relax, take a step back, and let things happen as they will.  We’ve discussed before how constantly striving to have things OUR way (eeek, CONTROL!) often leads to unhappiness. Because, let’s face it, things don’t always happen the way the little movie playing in our heads says they are supposed to. Sometimes, in fact, very little of what actually occurs is anything close to how we wanted it or how we thought it should be.

So, when things aren’t going our way, what should we do? Go out and “make things happen”? Or take the view that it’s happening the way it is supposed to, and our desires in the matter are not necessarily relevant? To further confuse the matter, how much of what we think we can control is actually in our control, anyhow? Deep thoughts for a Friday, I know!

You’ve probably heard the idea that each life is a thread in a grand tapestry, so as we go along our business, we are part of a larger plan in ways we could never comprehend from our own viewpoint.  I think of the way, at football games, bands march into a formation.  From the field, everyone is just looking out at their band buddies, hoping they are on their proper mark. From the stands, we say “Hey, cool! A duck!” Or whatever. You get the idea.

If that’s true, then the “grand design” might have something even better in store for us than whatever it was we wanted. Or the grand design might have something in store for us that isn’t so fabulous, but it’s still what’s supposed to happen. Personally, I’ve had plenty of situations in which I didn’t get what I wanted at the time, and I’m so grateful for it now!

Other times, I’ve set a goal and worked toward it, not letting obstacles or naysayers get in the way. And I accomplished that goal, and that seemed like the right thing to do. And I thought, Wow, if I hadn’t worked to make that change, how awful would that have turned out?  Hmmm.  Maybe I was right. Maybe not. Maybe no matter what I did in that moment, at that choice point, I still would have ended up where I did, just by a different path.

I don’t have an answer here. And I suspect that there is not ONE right answer. I’m guessing it depends on a lot of factors. Sometimes you have to make things happen, and sometimes you have to let things happen.   Like the “serenity prayer” – change what you can, accept what you can’t change, and be wise enough to know the difference.

Still pondering this one. If you have any insights, or cool quotes, feel free to share!


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