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All things turn out for the best: an overworked mantra

"Situations will always turn out the best for all those who do their best with the way things have already turned out." - Timothy Pina

Should we always strive to be optimistic? The short answer is yes. Thousands of studies have shown that optimism improves both mental and physical health and generally produces positive outcomes in our lives. But optimism, by itself, is no substitute for planning. Simple optimism does not assure good fortune. It takes hard work and discipline. People believe they are being optimistic when they say things like, "all things turn out for the best."
    But the belief that all things turn out for the best has, for many, become an apology for being too lazy to prepare yourself for whatever the future may bring. If you routinely do all you can to prepare for adversity or a major challenge, then yes, it seems appropriate to believe that all things turn out for the best. But, if you don't prepare yourself for things that can go wrong, it is blundering idiocy to think that the future will be as good as possible and that all things turn out for the best.
    Consider two friends: Jack and Tom. They both graduated from high school a few years ago. They both want to be successful and happy. They both drank the optimism Kool-Aid so they both believe all things turn out for the best. But, a few years later Jack's future looks a whole lot brighter than Tom's. It turns out that Tom didn't get training of any sort after high-school to better prepare himself for a good paying and stable job. Conversely, Jack took the long view and struggled to become a mechanical engineer.
    Tom's excuse may be that he just wasn't smart enough or that he never liked school. Lots of people don't like school or aren't as smart as the next guy, but they persevere. Even if Tom was financially challenged and couldn't beg, borrow, or steal the money to get an education, there is no denying he could have managed to get some post-secondary education that would have assured a brighter future.
    Both Jack and Tom can still hold the belief that "all things turn out for the best" but for whom has it become an excuse? It's become a convenient excuse for Tom. He doesn't really take responsibility for his plight because he mistakenly believes that—one way or the other—all things turn out for the best. It's a bit like saying it is God's will. Poor God, he gets blamed for much that should be blamed on bone laziness and failure to plan.
    We see the same type of excuse-making when the doting mother, father or grandparent tries to console Tom by saying, "all things happen for a reason." Yeah, the reason is that Tom's lazy; he fails to connect the dots! He's avoiding the reality that he, all by his little lonesome, is the reason his life is not quite as shiny as Jack's.
    Sure, there are many competing explanations for Tom's "bad luck" (another couple of words to excuse laziness). He may have attention deficit disorder, he may be more externally than internally controlled, he may be a procrastinator, he may have low self-esteem. All these and many other psychological explanations can contribute to Tom's plight, but let's not overlook a huge contributor: Tom lacks willpower. He fails to see that not deciding is still a decision, and all decisions have consequences. Tom needs to blame Tom. He needs to take corrective action and get on with his life.
    Many wise people have said our thoughts become our reality. Sure they do, but simply having a thought is like slipping the gear shift from park to drive. By itself, it's not enough. Tom may think, "I will be successful" but if he doesn't focus on the steps it takes he will have no purpose, no direction, and nothing to navigate towards. If he just shifts to "D" but doesn't grab the wheel or step on the gas he will only move slowly in random directions and life will go from bad to worse.
    So be careful about how you use the phrases "all things turn out for the best", or "things happen for a reason", "bad luck", or "it's God's will." Make sure you're not making an excuse for something that is your fault to begin with and live well between your ears.
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