“Everything happens for a reason.”
Do you also feel like this?
The philosopher Aristotle explains it perfectly. In his quest to discover the true meaning of life, he suggested there were two constants in life:
First, the universe is constantly changing and evolving. What it is today is never the same tomorrow.
Second, he referred to entelechy, which is “that which turns potential into reality.”
He believed that everything happening to you today has a purpose because it turns you into the person you are becoming.
It’s an extremely empowering concept to keep close to your heart.
When someone suggests that everything doesn’t happen for a reason, they usually take “reason” to mean cause-and-effect in a mechanistic universe where events are random.
I’m not suggesting otherwise.
I am, however, using a different definition of reason.
Reason is the meaning we give to the events that happen in our life.
The events you’re going through and the actions you take are creating the person you’re becoming.
You are not a random element in the universe, reacting mechanically to everything happening to you.
Instead, you are a human being. You have been gifted with the capacity to create meaning from all of these events.
I’ll break down the top 7 reasons why it can help you to see that everything in life is filled with meaning.
Let’s get started.
1. You learn to grow from tragedy and adversity
“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
If you embrace the mindset that everything happens for a reason, you can start to look back at experiences and reap important lessons from them.
Believing in everything happens for a reason empowers you to create meaning from the tragedies and setbacks you experience in life.
As the psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl says, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
You may be going through a break-up? Perhaps you’re struggling in the workplace with a terrible boss? Maybe you’re dealing with the grief of someone passing away?
Whatever it is you’re going through, I feel for you.
Believing that this is happening for a reason doesn’t mean you should be happy this is happening.
Believing in the reason behind any challenging event is about managing your pain and giving you the strength to go on.
Therapist Michael Schreiner explains the benefit of believing in this principle during challenging times:
“With this sort of psychological bulwark in place, life with all its chaotic randomness and uncertainty becomes less threatening, it seems more manageable.”
The challenges you’re going through are molding you into the person you’re becoming. So if you can look back and learn from them, you can start to find new ways to being and seeing the world and avoid the same pattern in the future.
2. It gives you closure
“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” — Walter Anderson
If you embrace the idea that everything happens for a reason, you can gain a sense of closure on something that can be very hard to let go of.
When things don’t go our way, we often experience regret. We wish we could have controlled the outcome to avoid feeling loss or disappointment.
For example, if you’re going through a break-up it’s natural to feel sad about it. It’s normal to feel a deep loss and shame over the failure of a relationship.
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 allows you to take one step forward to a better you.
3. It alleviates pain
“I knew everything happened for a reason. I just wished the reason would hurry up and make itself known.” – Christina Lauren,
If you can empower yourself with the idea that everything happens for a reason it can help to lessen how painful an experience feels.
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 hard lessons and a deep sense of meaning in life.
4. It gives you a chance to reflect
When you feel like something happened for a reason, you are likely to replay it a few times and look for new perspectives and vantages points to give more understanding.
This time for reflection lets you process the experience in a healthy way, compared to pushing the memory aside and muscling through life.
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.
It’s easier to avoid painful moments and to move on with your life. But the key to experiencing peace from our past strategies is to know and understand that you are living in a way that is aligned with a deeper sense of purpose.
The consequences of not finding your purpose in life include a general sense of frustration and dissatisfaction.
It’s difficult to connect with a deep sense of yourself, especially in challenging moments.
Actually, I learned a new way to look at how trying to improve yourself can hold you back from understanding your true life’s purpose.
Justin Brown, a co-founder of Ideapod, explains that most people misunderstand how to find their purpose, using visualizations and other self-help techniques.
After watching the video, I was reminded of the importance of personal reflection that leads you back to a deep connection with yourself.
This helped me to stay away from the superficial advice of others in the self-development industry, and instead turn the lens on myself and cultivate a better sense of who I am.
5. It leads us to the defining moments of our lives
“The world is so unpredictable. Things happen suddenly, unexpectedly. We want to feel we are in control of our own existence. In some ways we are, in some ways we’re not. We are ruled by the forces of chance and coincidence.” — Paul Auster
When you look back at pivotal moments in your life, you can start to see how it formed and shaped you and gave you a deep sense of meaning.
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.
Author Hara Estroff Marano and psychiatrist Dr. Anna Yusim describe such moments as:
“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.
6. It allows you to make sense of the chaos in your life
“You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” — Mary Tyler Moore
When random, horrible, or tragic events happen, it can feel hard to see that it was for a reason.
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.
7. It teaches you valuable lessons
“Do you believe that there are no coincidences in life? Everything happens for a reason. Every person we meet has a role in our life, whether it is big or small. Some will hurt, betray and make us cry. Some will teach us a lesson, not to change us, but to make us be a better person.” — Cynthia Rusli
Embracing the idea that everything happens for a reason in life allows you to learn valuable lessons.
Let’s go back to Aristotle’s reminder that “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 ideas, beliefs, and the way you approach things can even do a complete turnaround.
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.
The power of perspective
We all feel the need to grasp for something steady when life pulls the rug under our feet.
It can feel easier to brush off negative experiences or to chalk them up to fate or serendipity than to dwell on them and try to garner understanding from painful memories.
But believing that everything happens for a reason gives us valuable time for introspection that can be hard to obtain when life gets fast-paced and challenging.
Yes, there is beauty in believing that there is a reason why things don’t go according to plan.
This mindset can help us to consider the actions of others. It helps us to understand why they do what they do and to respond to each circumstance with compassion and grace.
So, when you are going through something challenging you to have two options in front of you:
1. You can believe that life is conspiring against you and trying to break you down.
2. Or, you can try to embrace the experience, look at it from different viewpoints, learn from it and move on with greater understanding.
The choice is up to you. What kind of life do you really want to lead?
As Justin reminds us in his poignant video on the hidden trap of self-improvement, the more we can learn to connect with a deep sense of who we are the more we are able to gain a deep sense of meaning from what we do and how we choose to see life.
The more you can change your mindset and embrace all you are and all that happens to you, the more empowered life you can live.
This challenging moment you are facing, or looming past, might still feel painful and difficult, but it will start to feel easier the more you get to know yourself and proactively shift your thinking about it.
Everything happens for a reason. This belief can drive you forward. It can keep you from making the same mistakes in the future. It can keep you in a state where you are always learning. And a little more kind to yourself when you hit some obstacles along the way.
So, what kind of world do you want to create?
A world of learning and growing and cultivating wisdom?
If so, then it’s time to embrace the thought that Aristotle so timelessly shares – that everything does in fact happen for a reason.
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