Timing has a profound impact on our lives.
Viktor Frankl has a notion of the human ability to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. When describing this power, Frankl explains that we control how we react to any situation, and our responses determine “whether or not you would become a plaything of circumstance.”
A plaything of circumstance: a being moved through life at the will of the circumstances they encounter. A reactive, rather than a proactive being.
An innate ability to choose our response is empowering; however, this belief has a tendency to incite negative connotations towards circumstance. The decision to submit yourself to circumstance can be just as empowering as the notion that we possess the ability to choose our attitude.
Frankl declares the power of refusing to become a plaything of circumstance, but there is also importance in our power to allow circumstance to play its role in our life.
A Chance Encounter
A scenario similar to this unfolded earlier in this week, and I found myself meandering around campus to clear my mind. I found a seat on a metal bench and began to eat my lunch as students flurried around me. As I ate, I noticed an old professor from freshman year approaching.
We shared a few pleasantries before I asked him for some book recommendations related to our past discussions in class. I was interested in his response, and he seemed to be quite invested in our conversation.
I didn’t expect that my professor remembered me beyond simple face recognition, let alone the possibility of having a connection with him while eating lunch. Putting myself in a position where social encounters were far more likely provided me with the opportunity to make a connection.
The Role of Circumstance
Had I returned home or retreated to the library for lunch, such an encounter would not have been likely. This is not to say one scenario is more favorable than another–solitude is as important as social interaction–but we must be willing to submit ourselves to circumstance in order to experience life.
I cannot blame circumstance for my troubles, but I can utilize it to my advantage.
Our decisions can box us in if we’re not careful. The walls that protect us also imprison us. The comfort of eating lunch in solitude prevents me from engaging with others.
An awareness of the role circumstance plays in our life and how we might benefit from stepping out of our self-imposed boxes might allow us to connect more and engage with others.
I can’t blame circumstance for my inaction, but I can recognize how circumstance can open up doors for opportunities.
Yes, I can control my response to a set of circumstances. But first, I must allow myself to become a plaything of circumstance to create the opportunity to choose my response.