I used to think it was a "bad" word. A real cop-out.

Surrender to destiny or fate? Never! We need to mold and change our circumstances, to strenuously exert ourselves to overcome challenges! Not accept them!

After all, are we not what we choose to be? Don't we have control over ourselves, our lives and our choices? Can't we will to be what we want to be?

Well, yes and no.

One of the most basic human convictions is that we make choices that decide our actions and influence our fate. Having the confidence to forge ahead and overcome any obstacles is crucial in order to actualize our emotional, spiritual and intellectual aspirations.

But then there is also the ability to acknowledge that "my" goal may not be what is ultimately meant for me.

As much as I will myself to become an opera soprano, microbiologist or a shrewd business investor—or even just a perpetually giving person – there comes a point when, as hard as I try, as strenuously as I train, and as much as I study, it simply won't happen. There are things within my control, within my abilities, but a soprano voice just isn't one of them.

Or try as I might to change my spouse (or boss or strong-willed toddler), he'll just never be the neat, orderly and punctual individual I aim for him to be (same for generous-with-a-raise boss, or obedient two-year-old).

There comes a point when I've got to accept that "it is what it is" and "I am what I am."

Is this a defeatist attitude that allows us to be satisfied with mediocrity and encourages lazy acceptance?

I don't think so.

Persevering against one's challenges and fighting against one's inborn limitations encourages our growth and is expected of each of us. Not doing so makes us guilty that we've wasted our innate, G‑d-given potential. We don't need to aim for perfection, but we do need to continue our journey of growth, one step at a time.

But, at the same time, surrendering to our destiny – even if it might be very different than the one we would have chosen for ourselves – is accepting that, despite our limited perspective, there is a design to our world and a Designer who is running it.

To forge ahead and create change takes courage.

To surrender to our destiny takes humility.

And it takes wisdom to determine which of the two is the right choice.