“I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”
— Marilyn Monroe
“Everything happens for a reason.”
A saying that has been familiar to every one of us during many points in our lives.
Famous philosopher Aristotle explains it perfectly. In his lifelong journey to know the true meaning of life, he has managed to impart one of the most valuable pieces of wisdom.
For him, there are two constants in life.
One, that the universe is constantly changing. It is always evolving. What it is today is never the same tomorrow.
And second, a thing he calls “entelechy.” It means, “that which turns potential into reality.”
Aristotle believed that things happen today because they have a purpose later on.
Every choice we make, every outcome that happens from these choices, every person who comes into our lives, and every person who leaves — all of these elements have a reason.
They make us who we are today.
Why is it important to believe in this philosophy?
The truth is, no matter how much we try to control our lives, there are things that we simply can’t control.
There are several factors that could affect our plans and alter the results we initially intended.
Things will not always go our way, no matter how much we want them to.
Believing in the philosophy that everything happens for a reason can both be good and bad.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Lewis:
“In my psychiatric practice, I’ve observed how this type of thinking can have powerful effects, both positive and negative, on motivation: it can be reassuring and comforting but can also lead to disillusionment, anguish, and feelings of abandonment, leaving some to ask, ‘Why me?’ when cruel adversity happens.”
So what is the purpose of these tragedies and setbacks?
Do they just happen randomly for no purpose at all? Does this mean that everything that happens in the universe is just a lottery of mathematical algorithm?
Furthermore, if everything happens for a reason, then what is the point of our free will and our right to choose?
Or would you rather believe the contrary?
Would you rather believe that everything has meaning, a purpose?
It is essential to use tragedy and adversity to grow into your fullest self
The thought that everything happens for a reason can be comforting to people especially when experiencing some kind of adversity.
It’s a phrase we all particularly and naturally gravitate to when life gets a little too hard.
But it is so much more than that.
It gives us the strength to move forward. How else can we explain it when things don’t go our way?
Therapist Michael Schreiner says:
“With this sort of psychological bulwark in place, life with all its chaotic randomness and uncertainty becomes less threatening, it seems more manageable.
“This secular version of religious predetermination not only instills courage to go out and face the world, it also makes the people who buy into it feel special, as if they were singled out for something important, as if the higher entity had a specific, detailed plan that included them.”
While it is important (in fact, imperative) to admit our fault or take responsibility in the things that happen to us, we also need to believe that these difficulties are a part of a bigger puzzle.
(If you want to learn how to use tragedy and advertising to grow into your fullest self, check out the recent article by Justin Brown: 7 powerful reasons to live when it’s impossible to go on.)
It gives us closure
When certain things don’t go our way, we tend to have regrets over them. There’s just a part of ourselves that feel the loss, disappointment, or a sense that we could have controlled the outcome better.
Let’s take a break-up for example. It’s natural to feel despondent about it at first. In fact, it’s normal to feel a deep loss and shame over the failure of a relationship.
But on the other hand, you can choose to use this experience as an opportunity to empower yourself.
You can choose to believe that there is a reason why this relationship failed. A reason that you’ll know later on. You can choose to create a new sense of meaning from getting over someone.
According to University of Toronto researcher Mariana Bockarova:
“When given closure, we can re-structure our past, present, and future in a healthy way, through understanding what went wrong and reconfiguring our story accordingly. When we are refused closure, however, attempts to understand what happened flood the conception of our past, present, and future.”
When you accept the reality and the finality of a situation, it closes the chapter of the story and allows you to move on to better things ahead.
Call it a coping mechanism if you must. But believing that events in your life have a purpose only allows you to take one step forward to a better you.
It alleviates our pain
Why has humanity been so strongly attracted to religion for millions of years? Because it gave them a reason, something to look up to when life becomes too painful. This need for something to hold onto has been embedded in our survival since time immemorial. Some people rely on religion or science.
Or you can just simply believe that everything has a purpose.
“We can think of the psychology of everything happens for a reason as the psychic equivalent of taking a powerful sedative, of sort of descending into a happy stupor where there’s no need to face existential anxiety squarely. “
It might be difficult to believe that there is a reason behind losing something. At this point in our lives, it’s easy to blame something or someone instead. But believing that everything happens for a reason can help ease the burden and pain. In fact, it allows us to heal.
Sometimes, it is during the lowest points in life that we gain the courage and strength to emerge as better. In believing that a loss is not meaningless, we give ourselves a chance to heal. It alleviates our most painful feelings and allows us to continue our lives.
(Pain and suffering provide meaning in life. So does achieving our goals. The most effective way to handle pain and achieve goals is to embrace your inner beast. Find out how in our free masterclass.)
It gives us a chance to reflect
I’ve heard someone say before that when a dream or a goal feels so out of your grasp and so impossible to achieve, the key is to just look at your feet and take one step at a time.
When you look at it as a simple step forward, it doesn’t seem so intimidating at all. And one day, you’ll just look up and you’ll have already arrived at your destination.
By choosing to believe that everything in your life has a bigger meaning, you allow yourself the openness to see the picture not as it is right now, but as it could be when all the pieces are finally put together. One day, all the pain, struggles, setbacks, and doubting will make sense.
You’ll realize that all of these things are essential building blocks to help you reach your highest self, or as Aristotle puts it, your entelechy or your conscious insight.
Bestselling author Karen Salmansohn explains the ideology:
“When you purposefully choose to tap into “conscious insight” you are able to see why and how to bend with stormy winds – instead of angrily resisting the things that life is blowing at you!
“What may have at first seemed deflating, frustrating or painful can be experienced with conscious insight as an empowering growth opportunity.”
It leads us to the defining moments of our lives
Have you ever had that “aha!” moment when everything finally makes sense? Yes, we’re talking about that.
Instead of being stuck on the negativity, you’ve chosen to believe that all is not for nothing. And when you experience your most defining moments, you feel that sense of awareness.
“Such moments carry credibility precisely because they are not anticipated or prescribed. They are, however, transformative. With their mix of insight and intensity, they give life new direction, forever altering the connection people have with each other and, often enough, with themselves.
“Of the various kinds of turning points life presents, the most powerful of all may be character-defining moments. They go to the heart of who we are.”
You realize that now all of it makes sense. It’s one of those Eureka moments that allow you to reflect on your life and makes you realize just how strong you really are.
It allows us to make sense of the chaos in our lives
We’ve all been through difficult situations when absolutely nothing makes sense. Life has a way of making us question even our own sanity at times.
Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom explains why it’s so comforting to believe everything is planned :
“I think it’s not so much of an intellectual need, but an emotional need. It’s very reassuring to think that, when bad things happen, there’s an underlying purpose behind them. There’s a silver lining. There’s a plan.
“The idea that the world is this pitiless place where things just happen, one damn thing after another, is frightening to many people.”
But allowing yourself to believe that even this chaos has a purpose allows you to take a step back and look at your life more closely. It allows you to pick at the things that do have meaning and do make sense. This makes you create better decisions in the future and gives you renewed motivation and purpose to go forward.
It teaches you valuable lessons
Let’s go back to the phrase “the universe is always changing.” So that means so do you. Everything that happens for a reason teaches you valuable lessons. It can even shatter your old beliefs, literally changing you into a better version of yourself.
You learn to look at things in a different light. Your ideals and the way you approach things can even do a complete 360.
In Jim Carrey’s famous commencement address at the 2014 MUM Graduation, he poignantly said:
“When I say life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you, I really don’t know if that’s true. I’m just making a conscious choice to perceive challenges as something beneficial so that I can deal with them in the most productive way.”
Change is an important aspect of life. Setbacks are there to teach us great lessons. These are things we all should learn to embrace.
(Learning valuable lessons in life is key. But make sure they are the right lessons. We share five key myths in self-improvement you need to avoid in our free video training. Register here.)
People are so obsessed with things like karma, fate or serendipity. It’s hard to explain. But ultimately, it’s just a need to grasp for something steady when life pulls the rug under our feet.
It’s important to keep believing that everything happens for a reason. It gives us valuable introspection that can be hard to obtain when life gets really hard.
However, it’s even more vital to remember that balance is essential.
Yes, there is beauty in believing that there is a reason why things don’t go according to plan.
But never forget the power of will and hard work. Don’t let this mindset consume you into being complacent.
According to Bloom and fellow psychology researcher Konika Banerjee:
“This tendency to see meaning in life events seems to reflect a more general aspect of human nature: our powerful drive to reason in psychological terms, to make sense of events and situations by appealing to goals, desires and intentions.
“This drive serves us well when we think about the actions of other people, who actually possess these psychological states, because it helps us figure out why people behave as they do and to respond appropriately.
“But it can lead us into error when we overextend it, causing us to infer psychological states even when none exist. This fosters the illusion that the world itself is full of purpose and design.”
In short, you also need to be proactive.
At the end of the day, everything does happen for a reason. But what you can control is your reaction to it.
What do you think? Does everything happen for a reason? Let us know in the poll below.