I don’t know if “everything happens for a reason.”
You hear that a lot in personal development circles. “Everything happens for a reason.”
You hear it a lot in religious circles. “God has a plan.”
Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. From a metaphysical perspective, those questions are above my pay grade.
Even if we believe in God, I don’t know if we can say for sure “he has a plan.” I’ve worked with a lot of people in my career as a therapist, the experiences of whom make me wonder about any “plan” that involves as much pain, complexity, and confusion as this one supposedly being played out by a loving, forgiving God.
Understand, I’m not saying God DOESN’T have a plan, or that things DON’T happen for a reason. I’m just acknowledging that, with the perceptual limits we have slapped on us as human beings, it’s impossible for us to know such things. Which is why, I suppose, words like “faith” exist.
No. I don’t know about the metaphysical certainty or mechanics of any grand “plans” or “reasons.”
But I do know that we, as humans, have the opportunity to find meaning in our experience.
We have the opportunity to CREATE meaning out of our experience.
And the psychological research— which is more hands on and directly observable than questions of God’s plan or lack thereof— indicates that people who spend time meaningfully grappling with the question of what their experiences MEAN tend to be happier and more functional than those who neglect that question.
Does everything serve a purpose? Who knows. But we can MAKE everything that happens to us serve a purpose in our lives.
Put another way, we can try on the hypothesis that everything hat happens to us has something to teach us. It serves a purpose in that somehow, some way, everything that happens to us can help further our goals and fulfill our values.
It was once suggested to me that a belief adopted by many successful people is that everything happens for a reason, and that reason serves us.
Keep in mind, that’s just a belief— it may be true or not.
But its VALUE isn’t necessarily in whether it’s true. It’s VALUE— much like any belief— is in how it directs our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
The fact is, we don’t know if MOST of our beliefs, either positive or negative, are true.
We think we develop beliefs based on what we understand to be true or not, but the psychological research suggests that’s not actually the case most of the time.
Most of the time, we adopt beliefs not because they’re “true” as we understand them…but rather, we adopt beliefs because of the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors they make possible.
Important distinction, that.
If you adopted the belief that everything happens for a reason, and that reason actually SERVES you…how would you look at your daily experiences differently?
If you adopted the belief that everything happens for a reason, and that reason actually SERVES you…how would you look at experiences of “failure” differently?
If you adopted the belief that everything happens for a reason, and that reason actually SERVES you…how might that equip you to deal with challenges in a way that people who DON’T have that belief are NOT equipped?
It might be a powerful game changer.
Don’t get hung up on whether your beliefs are true. Especially beliefs that no one, at least in this lifetime, can prove or disprove— like “everything happens for a reason” or “God has a plan.”
Trust me, no matter how much you meditate and/or pray on those questions, you’re not going to get a clear, unambiguous answer. And you don’t need one.
Focus instead on what, inside you, those beliefs make possible and likely.
What thoughts do those beliefs make it easy to think?
What feelings do those beliefs make it easy to have?
What behaviors do those beliefs make it easy to do?
By choosing your beliefs— and not getting hung up on the metaphysics of it all— you can reshape the way you deal with everyday life in some powerful, surprising ways.
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