By: Louise North – Principal and Head of the Senior School

Leave it with me
It’s in my hands It’s my call
I’ll decide
It’s on me
Fate will decide
Things happen for a reason It’s out of my hands
It’s meant to be
There’s nothing I can do….

How much of what happens to us is down to fate? How much of what happens to us is within our control? Who or what is in charge of what we do and how well we do it? Is what you do with your life in your hands or out of your hands? Philosophers have been discussing this for years: whether it is

determinism (the doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes regarded as external to the will)

fatalism (the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore)

or can everything be explained by free will (the ability to choose, think and act voluntarily and be the author of our own actions)

If you ask Mike Pearce, he would probably say that fate played a part in what happened to him on the night that he accidentally fell 80ft off a cliff but managed – just – to grab hold of a branch which stopped him from falling the remaining 200 ft to a probable messy end. Not only that, but he managed to get his phone out of his pocket to find he only inevitable had a minute amount of battery left. He chose to call a friend, who happened to answer his call, who knew where he had been walking and who then called the emergency services who came and rescued him from his precarious situation, hanging from a branch 200ft off the ground.

Was it fate that Mike fell and fate that he was rescued by a convenient branch? Or was Mike just stupid because he chose to walk along the edge of a cliff in the middle of the night? Was it fate that decided that the branch would be sticking out for Mike to grab or was it his quick thinking and sharp reflexes that enabled him to pinpoint the location of the handy branch? Was Mike in control of his wish to walk along the cliff edge or not? Was it careful use of his phone that meant that Mike had a just enough charge left on his battery or was it fate that the little red battery line was showing? Was it fate that meant his friend happened to be awake when he called – it was 1am – or was it that his friend, not having heard from Mike, thought it best to keep his phone on, just in case?

What do you think? For me I am not sure whether I believe in Fate a little bit or a lot. There are some situations where it is truly hard to explain how and why something has happened the way it has happened: my daughter running across a busy road but fortunately when no cars were coming, realising I had no money for the carpark when a stranger offers me her ticket – and the only explanation that brings some comfort is that sometimes, things happen for a reason. Maybe that is fate, I am not sure.

Deep down however, I believe that our choices, actions and our words are the biggest influence on what happens to us in the world. I also know that I sometimes use the fate card instead of taking responsibility for my actions. Have you ever said or thought: Fate is against me! It’s fate!

Fate meant that I forgot to save that crucial piece of work, it wasn’t my absentmindedness!

Fate meant that I pressed send on my annoyed draft email, it wasn’t my anger or impulsiveness!

Fate meant that that extra large bar of dairy milk chocolate was sitting on the table asking me to eat it, it wasn’t me being greedy!

Fate meant that my favourite show was on Netflix at the very moment I sat down to some work, it wasn’t me looking for distraction!

Fate meant that I had to pop into the Jigsaw sale, I wasn’t planning on buying that new coat

Actually, the truth is that I was being absentminded, I was angry and impulsive, I was being greedy, I was looking for distraction and I was planning on going to the Sales. I was more in control than I care to admit..

What about you?

How good are you at taking responsibility for… yourself, your actions, your words, your work, your mistakes, your choices? How often do you blame fate? Or the dog? Or the weather? Or the computer? Or the time? Or another person? To what extent do you believe that you are in control of your future?

Whatever you think, it is essential that you do all that you can to positively influence what happens, to give yourself the best chance if you like. So, as you begin the new term, metaphorically speaking, don’t walk on the edge of a cliff like Mike Pearce, stay firmly on the path; don’t let your phone battery run down to the last few seconds, keep it fully charged and ready for use and don’t rely on the proverbial branch to catch you.

Whilst the power of fate is uncertain, the power of our own actions, choices and words is unquestionable; this term, I want you to be proud

of your choices, your actions and your words, make them count in your academic work and in your relationships. Be sure that you can look back at the end of this term, not blaming fate – or anything else – for the things you haven’t done but pleased to take responsibility for what you have achieved.

Embrace the term, be determined to learn and make the most of every minute.

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