When it comes to the great debate between free will and determinism, I don't take a side. It's not because I'm sitting on the fence, though. It's because I believe that they co-exist.
People write theses on this subject, but I'll spare you the academic discourse and get straight to the point: I believe that life has put a trail of breadcrumbs on our paths, only sometimes we veer off track.
My modus operandi has always been to follow these breadcrumbs but this is by no means an exact science - indeed, it's not even corroborated by science.
I have no peer-reviewed papers for you on this one - only anecdotal evidence and the comfort of knowing that many of the thinkers I respect are of the same mindset.
In short, this approach may or may not be for you, but I know that it has worked for me and many others too...
The essence of this philosophy, so to speak, is staying completely open to your environment. Sometimes we wear blinkers. We believe that younger people are naive and older people are conservative. We forget that we can learn as much from a taxi driver as we can from a scholar.
These breadcrumbs don't appear as readily when we are closed off to certain aspects of our everyday environment.
Giving and receiving also need to be in balance. Give and give and give and you will be rewarded tenfold - but only if you're as open to receiving as you are to giving.
Plans can't be too rigid either. Five-year plans are, of course, helpful, but they should only be seen as a rough layout and not an exact blueprint. We need to leave room for the inevitable twists and turns on the trail. It's in this space that the magic happens.
It is also in this space where coincidences, synchronicities and déjà vu abound. I'm of the opinion that these types of phenomena are breadcrumbs - the language the universe uses to tell us that we are on the right path at the right time.
Psychotherapist David Richo explains this further in The Power of Coincidence: How Life Shows Us What We Need to Know. "We do not create our destiny," he writes. "We participate in its unfolding. Synchronicity works as a catalyst toward the working out of that destiny."
Life becomes less daunting when we follow this path. The pressure to achieve eases and we feel less like we're on a solo mission and more like we're co-creators in a grand plan.
But still some choose to make life extra hard on themselves. When it's time for a new direction - job, house, relationship - they forget to look out for the breadcrumbs. Often, the solution is in their immediate network. The connection has already been made - they just have to remember it.
Alone time helps in this regard. It is only when we're away from the computer screen and the coming and going of everyday life that we can join up the dots.
The answer is always within. Learn to trust your gut instinct and try to observe your body language when you are considering something as a possibility too. Are your fists clenched or is your jaw tight? Remember that our bodies tend to be cautious about a situation before our minds catch up...
It's also important to be aware of the times when progress seems inordinately challenging. In my opinion, it tends to be a sign that you didn't notice the last breadcrumb.
Dream analysis is helpful too. However, it should be noted that not all dreams are worthy of deconstruction.
Sometimes dreams are simply a way of integrating information that we unconsciously receive. These are the dreams we barely even remember in the morning. By the same token, there are dreams that we can't forget - dreams that are still on our mind at lunchtime the following day.
Many turn to dream dictionaries to understand what these dreams symbolise. I'm not a fan of this method as I'm of the belief that we each have unique relationships with the motifs that appear in our dreams. For instance, a black widow spider symbolises an arachnophobe's deepest fear and an entomologist's greatest career goal.
My personal approach to translating dreams is to identify what the motif personally signifies before remembering the predominant emotion that I felt when it appeared. The answer usually follows... I hasten to add that just as not all dreams should be interpreted, not all happenstances should be explored.
The reading of signs and symbols can easily become obsessive. If you're deciphering every car registration plate and rainbow for meaning, trust me, you've gone too far...
This obsessive behaviour is especially common in the early days of a relationship - and the female of the species are the worst offenders. We have a tendency to derive meaning out of even the most abstract commonalities.
The truth is that when the right person comes in at the right time, the signs are so abundantly obvious that they are beyond comprehension. There also tends to be vast evidence that they were going to come into our life one way or another...
Following the breadcrumbs - romantically or otherwise - will lead you towards fortuitous encounters, serendipitous opportunities and a remarkable sense of ease.
Just remember that we don't go looking for signs; the signs come looking for us.
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