Every year at Thanksgiving growing up, I was asked what I am thankful for. And I was baffled by the question. Why be thankful for that which is earned? Why be in awe of the law of causality? Why give special thanks in recognition of the truism that good things generally happen to good people?
Even as a child, I was amazed that people seem to attribute their successes and failures to accidents, as if their accomplishments did not flow logically from the premises that they held, and the actions that flowed necessarily from those premises. If you want something, act towards it and acquire it; if you don’t want something, move away from it. Make the decision, stick to the decision, and make your own way, with no need to ask permission, no need to apologize, and no need to give special thanks.
I never understood the concept of “accidents”. I always figured that admitting the existence of “accidents” into one’s universe removed one’s right to the full rewards of one’s success. I’ve always been told to drive slower, to be more cautious, because an accident was inevitable. And yet, I never slowed. And yet, I never crashed. I’ve always been told to not push myself so hard, to “take it easy”, because burnout was inevitable. And yet, I never crashed. And yet, I never stopped. I decided young that accidents are choices, like anything else in life—to be avoided by a few, and accepted by most as “the way of the world”.
Throughout the years, I always held tight to the concept of free will—to the idea that one is responsible for one’s own destiny, including accidents and rewards, failures and successes. That the accidental, trivial, tangential, was the irrelevant and not-to-be-focused-on. And that giving away “thanks” is not owning one’s life to the fullest.
And then my daughter Raven was born. And I realized I had unleashed another free will upon the universe, a free will not my own, yet I was to be the temporary keeper of that will. And along with that free will came a certain uncertainty: the possibility of actions and accidents beyond my reach and control.
For the first time, I felt fear. I felt nervousness. After all, if I end up in a car crash due to my own approach to driving, well, then, that is merely cause and effect claiming its prize, and I have only myself to blame. But if my daughter was hurt through no conscious choice of her own…
…well, then, that would be an accident. A true accident.
And yet here she stands, at sixteen months old, beautiful and happy as ever. Each morning, she wakes up smiling and happy to be alive. And for once, I cannot claim ownership of that joy. It is a sheer magnificent coincidence of the universe.
I still believe, fundamentally, that good things happen to good people. But I also believe that I finally understand the concept of being grateful, of being thankful—of realizing that sometimes, something wonderful happens outside of one’s control, beyond one’s control. And that when it does, all that is required is a tip of the hat and a silent “thanks” to the universe at large.
I am thankful that cause and effect continues to reign supreme and reflects our long-term decisions and choices. I am thankful that good things happen to good people, and that with enough work and enough effort, there is always a payoff at the end. I am thankful that when I choose to contract my muscles forcefully, the weight moves upwards and builds a temple for my spirit. I am thankful to know that I am in control of my own destiny to a very large degree, that my will exerts force enough upon the world for me to greet each sunrise confident and excited about my day and about my future. I am thankful to be surrounded by a select few individuals that I truly care about.
And I am thankful that Raven smiles. Even though deep down, I still don’t believe in accidents.
~David Johnston (11/23/10)
**This article first appeared on DavidJohnstonTraining.com on 11/23/10
David Johnston is the founder and lead trainer of TEAM Warrior Within. You can also listen to him weekely on the GEARD Up podcast. ( GEARDUp.com ) David works with clients ranging from the everyday person just trying to lose weight and get healthy, local and national bodybuilding and physique competitors, to IFBB professional athletes.
David lives and breathes all things related to physique transformation, and has devoted nearly half of his life to passionately studying and educating himself to be the absolute best at what he does. His intensity in the gym is matched only by the passion he gives to his clients.