The Skeptic’s Guide to Miracles

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Highly unusual, “impossible,” perhaps even miraculous things happen many times each day. If you’ve been plugging away with little to show for your efforts, read on to learn how to raise your odds of a miracle.

We learn from experience, and for the most part, this is a good thing. The trouble begins when we start to confuse prior bad results with what we’ll get in the future. As the negativity becomes more pronounced, we start to take shortcuts in our thinking and jump to the worst conclusion without really looking at what’s going on. Before long, a person could easily find themselves living in a tiny world of their own construction, built primarily of statements about what will not and cannot ever work.

But if we can be a little more careful, we begin to recognize that our models and assumptions about the world aren’t the world itself, and can never be. The human brain, as amazing as it is, simply lacks the capacity to understand even the tiniest fraction of what’s going on under our noses every day. This understanding might seem distant and philosophical at first, but it’s absolutely essential when confronting discouragement.

We want to think of ourselves as self-made successes, but if we’re honest, we know that we almost never succeed in a vacuum — and we triumph mostly through seemingly random “good breaks” that “just come to us” from time to time. Call it luck, karma, God, or the universe, even the most skeptical of us have to admit there’s something outside our control and understanding that impacts our success. How we relate to it makes all the difference in the world.

So if you buy the idea that reality is vastly more complex than you can understand, what can you do with this new perspective? If it’s true that we’re missing most of the picture, we can take heart that we can continue the search for the answers we want almost indefinitely. And even if our last thousand attempts all failed, there’s still the chance that our very next action will succeed beyond our wildest dreams because of a few subtle fluctuations in the trillions of physical, mental, emotional, social, and political factors that buffet us every day, most of which we may never understand or even notice.

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As big and busy as our world is, somewhere, someone is being promoted up and out of a position where you would fit in perfectly. Somewhere else, (probably many places, actually,) a person who would be your soul-mate is wishing they could meet someone just like you. With trillions of interactions going on all the time, “once in a million” events are happening constantly. But we can only take advantage of this fact as long as we continue the search.

Less subtle changes surround us as well. Just as the seasons change, the economy flows through cycles of expansion and decline. You might not be able to set your calendar by the stock market, but believing that a boom will never come is about as unrealistic as believing the economy will never tank. Sometimes searching takes the form of waiting for conditions to change.

Despite all this complexity, our corner of the world can seem stale and monotonous because we stick to the same old parts that disappoint us. Many people fear change because they aren’t sure that what’s new will be better than what they have. Rather than only making a move when you know it leads to something better, what if you decided to change precisely because you don’t know what you’ll find? Chances are, if you look long enough and hard enough, you’ll find something so amazing you’ll think it’s completely impossible. And if you want to call what you’ve found a “miracle,” I won’t object.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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