Everything Happens for a Reason?
A lot of our common expressions and sayings don't really make
sense. In fact, when people say that everything happens for a
reason, a more skeptical mind might respond with, "What
nonsense!" But on the other hand, what a useful idea this
can be, whether or not it's true! Regardless of religious or
philosophical background, this is a belief that anyone can use,
even if it's false.
Nobody can prove that everything happens for a reason, and
when you consider some of the truly terrible things that happen
to people, it sometimes seems almost rude to even suggest it.
But its truth or falseness is relatively unimportant compared
to its usefulness. You see, as a personal belief, it can not
only improve your outlook on life, but make your response to
it more productive.
If you lost your job, for example, and you think there must
be a reason, you start looking for it. The result? Perhaps you
find your "true purpose" in life, or get a better job,
but in any case you don't get demotivated. People who don't think
things happen for a reason are probably more likely to be devastated
by such "bad luck," rather than use is as an opportunity
to better their lives.
I put "true purpose" in quotation marks above because
this is another idea that may be nonsense, but can be useful
nonetheless. If for some people it gives life more meaning, it
may lead to more life satisfaction. Another such belief is one
we tell children: "You can be anything you want to be."
And easily proven wrong. You can think of many reasons why
some people can never do some things in life. But the general
idea can be very motivating, right? Tell a child there are only
some things she can do, and she'll likely start ruling out many
things that are really possible for her.
Such beliefs are what I call "useful lies," because
whether they are true or not generally can't be proven (perhaps
it's actually true that everything happens for a reason), but
they serve a purpose. Some of these can be blatantly silly, but
they organize one's thinking in a way that leads to more productive
results in both thinking and the action that follows. Someone
who believes he was "meant" to be a writer, for example,
won't get discouraged from a writing career as easily as someone
who just "tries" writing.
Believe It Or Not - It Doesn't Matter
I use the provocative word "lie" to point out that
we often act as though we have some real evidentiary reasons
for such beliefs. In that sense, we really do "lie"
when we throw them out there like proven facts. Of course, the
term "useful lies" also gets attention.
Of course the "lie" can be false and still work,
but what is even more interesting is that you don't even have
to believe it for it to work. In other words, it doesn't really
have to be a belief. You might think that the idea "anything
is possible" is nonsense, but you can still use it as an
"operating principle." You keep it in mind and act
as though anything is possible. As a result you find more possibilities
in life than if you act according to operating principles that
are more skeptical.
Bill Harris, founder of the Centerpointe Institute, is one
of the bigger distributors of motivational CDs online. I recently
read a true story about how when his company was young, he was
sued for a million dollars. The lawsuit was frivolous, but it
was going to take a lot of money - which he didn't have - to
defend his company. Was there some higher reason or purpose for
this disaster? Not likely.
However, it seems that Harris believes everything happens
for a reason, or at least acts according to this belief. He sat
down and listed sixty possible benefits of being sued, starting
with "I can learn about the legal system." Every one
of the benefits on his list came true, he claims, and today his
company is bigger and better than ever. This shows the power
of a good idea, or "useful lie."
Good ideas are like good tools if you use them that way. Use
them, then set them down and pick up better ones as needed. There
is no need to cling to them as some revealed "truth"
to get the value from them. On the other hand, if you really
do believe that everything happens for some purpose or reason,
maybe my concept of "useful lies" has shaken your faith.
In that case, just assume there some good reason for this.