Why fate is such a terrible belief

The harder a decision, the more unlikely or improbable something seems, the bigger the issue that gets solved or event that occurs…the more likely we are to call it ‘fate’.

We’ve all heard: “That’s so amazing that you met your girlfriend/boyfriend/partner/best friend/soul mate/husband/wife in *insert seemingly random circumstances* – it must be fate!”

It’s not.

Fate is another word for something magical, a higher power controlling our destiny – in other words, it’s not real. To be clear: fate doesn’t exist, there is no godlike figure controlling our lives and manufacturing random events for our benefit or displeasure.

But, for some people who might find making big decisions or comprehending changes in their lives difficult, ‘fate’ is an easy way out. ‘It’s meant to be’, ‘god willed it’ and ‘it is what it is’ are other versions of fate, dressed up as religion or fatalistic thinking. Illness, relationships, jobs, money, accidents, birth, deaths and success are all things that are often talked about in this way.

Successful relationships: is it fate, or entirely down to you?

Think about the first statement, regarding meeting a partner and how it is often attributed to ‘fate’. In your lifetime, you might meet tens of thousands of people as you go about your daily life. There is a high probability that at some point, out of all these people you interact with in various ways, you will meet someone you are romantically attracted to, who is also romantically attracted to you too, and that you have a relationship based on this.

Yes, there may some factor in the meeting that seems coincidental – but the same could be said for every human interaction. We’re all connected in some way – big or small – so that chance meeting or seemingly random event is rarely that random.

Meeting your partner in some apparently fortuitous way is no more ‘fate’ than driving a car for thousands of miles and eventually running over a rabbit; because you have covered so many miles, sooner or later it is inevitable that the bumper of your car and a small furry animal will collide. But because a relationship seems like a major thing, something so important in someone’s life, it is easy to attribute this to something other-worldly  – ‘fate’.

‘Fate’ is, in essence, when someone invents a reason for something happening because they have, to some degree, superstitious, religious or spiritual beliefs that are confirmed by this ‘fateful’ event. This is called confirmation bias; rather than looking at an event rationally and accepting it at face value, they use it as confirmation of their belief in the supernatural or a higher power.

A classic belief along these lines that gets trotted out regularly is the seeing-Jesus-in-a-piece-of-toast news story. The witness is always devoutly religious and they see a random shape in their food as a sign from their Lord Saviour. Because, clearly if a higher power wanted to communicate with us mere mortals, they’d do it through the medium of shapes in burnt food. .. Mirth aside, the person will have hundreds of shapes in their food in their lifetime, but the one that looks like a bearded man is naturally hailed as a religious message.

A recent example illustrates this perfectly. The Metro reports that someone saw Jesus in a piece of slightly burnt toast – the classic scenario, it seems – and the man’s response to this?

But Mr Cranfield, a Catholic, said he is sure it is a message from God.

‘As a strong Christian I believe that this was no mistake, I believe that God himself had sent it to me to prove that he exists and that I should not give up my faith,’ he said.

‘People may mock me and call me a “self proclaimed” catholic, they may swear and say rude things but I don’t care.’ He added: ‘I don’t care because I know that was no coincidence, I know the truth.’

This quote says it all – Mr Cranfield considered that the toast was a religious sign that confirmed exactly his beliefs. His quote mentions nothing about it possibly being the fault of the toaster. This is confirmation bias in action and a great example of the reason that a widespread belief in the supernatural and fate exists.

But why is this sort of belief so unhelpful for someone wishing to live a thriving life? On the face of it, a belief in fate or a higher power doesn’t seem so bad.

The reason is this: for every degree that someone believes in fate, they are deferring responsibility for events in their life to a higher power – usually a godlike figure – to the same degree. They do not believe that they are wholly responsible for the events and outcomes that shape their lives. They are leaving a portion of this to ‘fate’ – e.g. it’s up to god if they get that job, beat depression, have great friends or meet the love of their live.

How much has this sportsman resigned his game outcome to ‘fate’ or a higher power? And how much time and energy does he spend attending to this belief?

This deferment of responsibility, even if slight, means that the person will be highly unlikely to concentrate maximum effort, or make great decisions, in order to further something like finding a romantic interest, winning a competition or defeating illness. After all, if they truly believe that there is an omnipotent higher power at work, what difference could a single earthbound human make? The believers simply end up praying or hoping for a good outcome, rather than doing something about it and also exert energy in maintaining this belief – attending church or learning scripture, for example.

A key facet of The Thrive Programme is about identifying unhelpful beliefs – such as fate, spiritualism or reliance on superstition and religion – that are holding us back in life and learning how to overcome their limiting effects, which are surprisingly strong and powerful.

For many people, this is a hugely enlightening experience – because it means that every success, victory or achievement is entirely down to them, not Jesus, god or the spirits: You are the architect of your own success and ongoing wellbeing. If we all took that view, the world be a better, more Thriving place, I’m sure.

By |July 17th, 2017|Blog & News|0 Comments