Everything Happens for a Reason

Posted: February 10, 2011 in Psychology
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If you believe that everything happens for a reason, you feel there is some purpose for your existence. Maybe God has a job for you to do. Maybe the universe. Or just the government or education system.

If you’re lucky, going along with whatever comes your way will work out for you. If it does, more power to you. If it doesn’t, you’re going to be unhappy. Trusting that some external power is going to give you a good life is a roll of the dice.

If instead you believe there is no purpose, no fate, you are free. That sounds good, but freedom can be a terrible thing. There is no plan laid out for you. It’s up to you to work out your own path. You will make bad choices along the way. You will spend years enthusiastically chasing goals you later decide are stupid. Life will be full of highs and lows.

Erich Fromm wrote that freedom creates so many anxieties that most people are ready to give it up if only someone would lead them. A job offer with a nice size paycheck sets your path for you. A career in a big company can keep you busy for life. Sure, your life will be determined by your job and your freedom will be limited to your social life. That’s a small price to pay to eliminate anxiety.

Freedom doesn’t have to be full of anxiety. Change is the cause of anxiety. When you step onto a new path, you don’t know what will happen. As you travel further along that path, you learn its pitfalls and its benefits. When you have learned the path well, the possibilities become clear. The anxiety goes away.

The more you exercise your freedom, the more kinds of paths you learn. The number of choices you can make are limitless. The kinds of choices you can make are not. By making many changes in your life you adapt to change. This reduces anxiety because new adventures look a lot like past ones.

Freedom does not mean you must keep making new choices. It only means you are able to choose. You can look at all of the paths you’ve taken so far and decide what it was you liked about them. Common themes and roles will appear. There was something that attracted you to every job you’ve had. There were other somethings that are the reason you’re not in any of those jobs.

The challenge is to work out what those positives and negatives were or are. Try not to fall into remembering your entire past. You’re after the highlights. This is the same task you have when working on a resume. List all of the skills you’ve learned in education, work, and leisure.

Have you made a list? Now look over the list and decide which of your abilities are the ones you wish you did for a living. Can you get a job using them? Even better, can you create your own job using them?

It’s tempting to base your future goals on where you are now. You will find it more rewarding to plan your future based on what you know you love. If where you are now is what you love, well done.

I’ll leave you with the challenge of deciding whether your current goals are what you really want. Are you choosing the safety of the familiar or the anxiety of free choice?

Everything happens for a reason. Your future will either be the same or closer to your dreams for one reason; your choice between freedom and security.

Article text copyright 2011 David Arthur Smith. All Rights Reserved.


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