Maybe you’ve heard the saying that “everyone comes into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime”.
Perhaps above all else, life is about embracing experiences and learning lessons. The people we meet along the way are usually our biggest teachers.
They hold a mirror up to us so that we can see ourselves reflected, bringing with it the chance for growth.
In this way, you could say that every single person you meet presents an opportunity, and someone comes into your life for a reason.
Do people come into your life for a reason?
The way I see it, it doesn’t matter whether you take a spiritual view about the people you meet in life or a very practical one. Either way, you can still argue that the people we encounter have great significance.
You may believe that when someone comes into your life, God sent them for a reason. Or you may simply adopt the ultimate growth mindset and realize that everyone has something of value to give if you are open to receiving it.
The world is such a diverse place. We each have different experiences to share, different ideas to present, and different viewpoints to offer one another.
Without the relationships we create (both big and small), life would be devoid of much of its meaning. If you consider yourself to be on a journey of self-discovery, then there is perhaps no better aid than the people you meet along the way.
The experiences and fresh perspectives that meeting new people brings into our lives have the potential to create sweeping change, allowing us to progress, develop, and mature.
“You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
— Francis Scott Fitzgerald
People come into your life for 3 reasons
Whilst there are limitless reasons why someone enters your life, depending on your own unique circumstances, they usually fall under the category of three main reasons.
Firstly, we meet people to come together and share a connection. This interaction, no matter how large or small, can then be of benefit to their growth as well as being of benefit to your growth too.
On a very basic level, people enter our lives for the sake of connection. As human beings, we are scientifically wired to connect.
In fact, scientist Matthew Lieberman claims that our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water.
“Across many studies of mammals, from the smallest rodents all the way to us humans, the data suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed…We may not like the fact that we are wired such that our well-being depends on our connections with others, but the facts are the facts.”
Social connection boosts your health. It helps us to regulate our emotions, leads to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improves our immune systems. It’s been shown to reduce depression and anxiety. It may even extend your life by up to 50%.
There’s no getting away from it, these experiences we share with one another — from the tiniest interactions all the way to the strongest of bonds —are for most of us what makes life worth living.
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Regardless of whether that connection lasts for mere moments, or an entire lifetime, it is what brings richness to daily existence.
Occasionally you even have those connections where you may feel ‘we are in each other’s life for a reason’. So powerful is the bond, it’s almost like a metaphysical connection — and seems to impact your mind, body, and soul.
2) Your growth
As Doctor Wayne Dyer said: “Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”
Pretty much every single relationship we have or person who comes into our life, we can learn something from.
The lover who jilts you, or the friend who lets you down. What better way to practice forgiveness.
The boss who demands too much, or the neighbor who asks for one too many favors. What better way to practice our boundaries.
The “jerk” who cut you off in the car this morning, or the grumpy barista who served you your coffee. What better way to practice patience.
Even the seemingly most inconsequential meetings still bring with them opportunities and choices that have the potential to shape your life.
3) Their growth
Of course, it’s not all about you. Although we tend to understandably place ourselves at the center of the Universe (or is it just me who does that?) there are approximately 7.7 billion of us on this planet.
Just as many times as you will be the pupil in life, you will also be the teacher.
Sometimes that might be the wise words you offer to a friend in need that helps to create a shift in them and allows them to see things in another way.
Other times, you might be that moody person having a bad day whose snappy retort teaches someone else the power of understanding.
Just as much as someone comes into your life for a reason, you also come into theirs for a reason too.
Self-responsibility is the key to working out why someone comes into your life
“I hate him” she tearfully spluttered down the phone to me.
My friend was experiencing a situation most of us are likely to be familiar with. When the stinging defeat of romance gone wrong hits us, it can quickly leave us feeling like powerless victims.
He did X, Y, and Z, he is a (fill in the blank with your own preferred expletive), it’s all his fault, why did he treat me this way, etc.
It’s totally natural when we are feeling hurt to unconsciously fall into this type of storytelling where we blame the other.
The problem is by focusing so much on the other person, we can tend to miss our lessons in it all.
Relationships are our mirror, but we spend a lot of time looking at and judging the other person’s reflection, rather than scrutinizing our own.
And at the end of the day, other people’s lessons to learn in life are probably none of our business. What is absolutely our business are the takeaways that we can glean from any situation or relationship that will ultimately benefit our life.
If we want to make sure we never waste the opportunity of someone coming into our lives for a reason, then I can’t help but think that self-awareness, self-responsibility, and self-reflection are surely the key.
Self-awareness — Considering what is my role in this?
Self-responsibility — Asking what are my emotions, thoughts, and actions that I need to take sole ownership of?
Self-reflection — Contemplating what do this experience and relationship tell me about myself and the world around me?
Right place, Right time: When someone comes into your life unexpectedly
Do you believe in divine timing?
I must admit, there have been several times in my life where I feel like I’ve met the right person at just the right time. Certain relationships have felt like they were meant to be somehow.
The unexpected meetings that end up having an intense effect on you can feel like the most eerily serendipitous.
Around 8 years ago after making some pretty drastic life changes (quitting my job, giving up my house, and traveling halfway around the world), I found myself living in a tent on a New Zealand beach.
There I met a local man who was also staying in the same small camp. Every morning at dawn we created a little ritual where we would sit around a fire, drink tea and talk about life.
It was an unexpected friendship of two people who really had very little in common.
One day during one of our discussions, he handed me a book that changed my entire life and way of thinking in an instance. It was spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth’.
I barely knew this man. He would only be in my life for a matter of weeks. In many ways, I wouldn’t even say we shared a particularly deep connection. At the same time, he turned out to be one of my biggest teachers in life.
And that’s the thing about the people we meet, the relationships we form, and the experiences we have. Each can appear and disappear in an instant, but still be profound.
“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
People come and go in your life
Often it’s not the coming, but the going of people from our life that has us truly grasping for answers.
A relationship that didn’t work out, a friendship that grew apart, or the death of someone close to us. Accepting the loss of significant people in our lives is one of the most painful parts of creating connections.
When a certain someone leaves, it can also leave you wondering what was the point?
But regardless of what happened or how things end, the experiences you shared does remain.
“People come and go in our lives but memories stay forever.”
– Debasish. Mridha
The power of non-attachment when people enter and leave your life
The old zen proverb of ‘let go or be dragged’ teaches us the danger of holding onto things that we really need to be letting go of.
Non-attachment is a concept that can sound quite cold or even heartless at first. But this traditional Buddhist practice is about refusing to either cling to what we desire or avoid the things we see as undesirable.
Rather than be about not caring, it’s more about accepting the impermanence of everything in life — including the relationships we have and the connections we make.
There is plenty of scientific evidence that this spiritual practice is extremely healthy for our psychological well-being.
In 2010 Sahdra, Shaver, & Brown created the nonattachment scale to capture the quality of nonattachment and look at how it relates to other areas of life.
Since then studies have concluded that non-attachment can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, increase positive social behaviors like empathy and kindness and even lead to developing higher qualities like wisdom and self-actualization.
After interviewing people who scored very high on the nonattachment scale, researcher and psychotherapist Richard Whitehead discovered they had something important in common.
“Interestingly, the most common theme was the way they worked through their most difficult moments in life. Almost all of these individuals had moments of intense suffering which had become a catalyst for them to live a different way. They were able to draw strength from these experiences and realize the futility of living a life burdened by everything they could not change. Most were also able to integrate some form of self-reflective practice, such as psychotherapy or meditation that assisted them in their path towards letting go.”
To conclude: People come into your life for a reason, it’s your job to find out why
“We met for a reason. Either you’re a blessing or a lesson.”
– Frank Ocean
The reality is that not everyone we meet will bring with them a pleasant experience. Some people may test our patience, show us things we would rather not have seen, and deliver hard lessons that shake us to the core.
Others will feel like a blessing, their love will lift us up, and their presence will feel like a warm ray of sunshine that lights up the darkness.
But both types of experience are equally valid and equally essential to our overall evolution.