Updated: Jun 25, 2019
This quote comes from the poem “Invictus” written in 1875 by William Henley. The literal meaning of the word Invictus - (Latin adjective, "unconquered, unsubdued, invincible," from in- "not, opposite of") urges us to persevere through hardship. Here is the poem in its entirety...
“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”
What does "Master of My Fate, Captain of My Soul" really mean, and more importantly how can we apply this to give our life meaning and greater purpose? Let's look closer and see how this has a deep impact on our life when using it for our purpose. Because we are a manifestation of God (or the Consciousness of the Universe) our greatest purpose is to manifest God in all that we do. With this in mind, we can create a life with limitless potential, and overcome most any hardship. We can be “unconquerable”. So what does this quote really mean on a deeper level?
Let's explore the second part first; "Captain of my Soul". We are not the captain of our soul, we ARE our soul. It is who we inherently are. It has been said that, "We are not humans having a spiritual experience, but spirits having a human experience". The soul (our Spirit) itself, its own captain. It is the consciousness of the Universe. Our spirit is God. We do not need to lead it, but rather allow it to guide us and honor and express it in all that we do.
What we are the captain of is our own being, this human physical manifestation with its own ego, emotions, thoughts and beliefs. These are the things we are in control of, but only with the awareness of our spirit can we direct it to live out our purpose.
Most of us allow our egos and emotions to control our life because of the programming of our thoughts and beliefs. We might not be aware of it, but the fact is they have been largely programmed into us by about the age of 7 years old. This means that our parents programmed into us everything we think and believe about ourselves and how we view the world. Not only have they done this out of their own (typically and equally faulty) programming, but also genetically. Well-intentioned as they might have been, they put these faulty thoughts and beliefs into our own mindset and then we grow up and live out the same programming. If we each are the captain of our soul, then we can overcome this faulty way of thinking, yet few seldom do and many who attempt it typically struggle their entire lives in doing so.
Without purpose, instead of mindfully living with intention, we tend to live life on autopilot, waking up every day and simply going through the motions of our default programming. Modern life, being hectic, fast paced and mostly stress-filled has us merely reacting to everything life throws at us. We have such a difficult time dealing with our problems. When we don't purposely create our life and only react to it out of our emotions, we are in effect, the "captain of nothing" and floating in the sea of life, rudderless. We have defined how the world (and everyone in it) needs to be in order for us to be okay. But we aren't okay because the world is seldom the way we wish it would be. If we can't even control our own thoughts, emotions and reactions, how much control do we have over others or the world around us?
In this lack of control, we deny our problems exist, we run away from them, or we use escape mechanisms as a distraction from them. We look to drugs, alcohol, food, sex, television, video games, social media, work, hobbies, etc. to keep us from having to look into the mirror and deal with our true selves. And we also blame and judge others for our problems. It's then our spouse's fault, or our friends', co-workers', or anyone else that we point to as the source of our troubles. If we are the captain of anything, it is blaming someone or something else for our problems. We think if we could just avoid them, our troubles would go away.
Yet, no matter where we go, there we are. Yes, we can run down to the local bar, or hang out with our toxic friends who also cannot deal with their own issues (misery loves company), or work longer hours, cheat on our spouse, get drunk, do drugs, binge watch Netflix, play video games 24 hours a day, sit on social media complaining about life, or engage in any number of things to escape our troubles. We can even pack up and move somewhere else in an attempt to leave our problems behind us, and yet they still remain. In doing these things, we only become the captain of a boat set adrift and going nowhere, all alone. We'll do anything but deal with our problems, and certainly unwilling to look in the mirror and take responsibility for our life. A true captain who leads is one who looks within. A real leader knows that judging and blaming another is only looking into a mirror and seeing one's true self, being the only one capable of fixing what troubles him.
Being the "Captain of our Soul", is being accountable for our own life and taking responsibility for it, and then doing something positive and constructive with it, actually creating the life we want. Running away and hiding from our problems and burying ourselves in our escape mechanisms is cowardice, not bravery. It isn't perseverance in the face of hardship, it is living in fear of what we might discover if we really looked within. When we learn to see ourselves in others, we no longer can put the blame on them. We become “Captain of our Soul” when we take on the responsibility of changing ourselves, not others.
The first part of the quote that we are the "Master of our Fate" speaks to those who have truly learned to become a Master. Once we have looked within and mastered our fears, only then can we attempt to create the life we really wish to have. Yes, we can only control ourselves. This is the "mastery" of being the "Captain of our Soul". Because our self is the only thing we can control, this is how we direct our fate towards that which our heart desires. But we can't even begin to create the life we wish until we learn to master our own thoughts, beliefs, ego and emotions. Once we have become the master over our self, we are then free of the only thing that holds us back; self-imposed limitation. Changing our thoughts and beliefs is the first step in changing our life and creating it the way a true master of their own fate would do so.
We know we have become a master when we no longer hold others accountable for our problems, because we've realized we created them all on our own. This is real freedom, but also real power with which we create our life. We are not fated to live a life full of problems. It is only the faulty programmed thoughts and beliefs that has us believing it to be true. We are the manifestation of God, and we create our own fate, either by living our purpose or not. Without purpose, we are living accidentally, only capable of reacting to others and continually blaming others and living in fear of change. Living with purpose (manifesting God in all that we do) is what gives us power to determine our own fate. This is what being the "Master of My Fate" means.
Because we are all connected with each other, and our purpose is to manifest God in all that we do, if this credo "Master of My Fate, Captain of My Soul" is to have any meaning, we cannot take it to read, "I'll do as I please and no one can tell me what to do" or we will have totally missed the point of it. If that is all it means to you, it is a pointless and self-serving pursuit. It is in our connection with others that gives it depth and meaning. Once we realize we are the only one in control over the life we create, we absolutely must incorporate it into our daily life and use it to be in service to others. Our ultimate purpose in life is in serving others. It all starts with learning to master our self, this much is true. But to be a great captain requires the wisdom of cooperation with others because it is only with cooperation that we accomplish anything and that our life's purpose will be fully realized. When we learn to love ourselves, and then love others "as we love our self" this life we create takes on deeper meaning and fulfillment. A true master understands this. Once we master our self, no longer seeking the distractions of our escape mechanisms, we can then turn our attention to fulfilling our ultimate purpose; manifesting God in all that we do. This is how we create the greatest achievements in our life, be it careers and goals, health and wellness, financial well-being, strong, lasting and loving relationships, and we grow exponentially in our personal and spiritual journey. This is what a true master and captain does with their life.
Every time we face a challenge in life, we must understand it is only our own internal struggle with our self, so then we must always ask our self, "How does this manifest God?" A true master of their fate and captain of their soul understands this and takes responsibility for it ALL, taking charge and facing the darkest parts of our own self and makes the changes necessary to achieve and fulfill our own purpose. To do otherwise leaves us slaves to our fate, such as we have created it.
If you truly wish to be the "Master of My Fate, Captain of My Soul", then learn to master yourself instead of trying to control others, and create the life you want instead of avoiding the one you are living. This is being truly “unconquerable” or Invictus.