Murphy’s Law, revisited
Updated: Feb 24
Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
We’ve all heard the popular axiom before. Typically used in a cynical sense when everything in life seems to go against you. When the proverbial shit hits the fan. When the world conspires against you, the hapless victim, in some elaborate plot to bring chaos to your life. While this may appear hyperbolic, it can certainly feel like that at times. It’s only natural then, to conclude that this Murphy guy was right after all and we live in a fatalistic world, destined to endure the worst life has to offer.
However, deeper reflections on the nature of this thinking reveal that it is not an absolute truth. In fact, not everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Rather everything you think will go wrong will be more likely to then go wrong as a result of that thinking. This may seem like a subtle, contrived difference but it can have profound effects on one’s life.
Let’s look at an example.
Imagine you wake up one Monday morning feeling especially groggy. You check the time and remember this is the third time you snoozed your alarm. You immediately get that quick hit of anxiety as you’re now off to the races knowing you put off that little bit of work you had last night before your team meeting in the morning so you could polish off season 4 of your favorite Netflix show. In your hurried state, you throw a piece of bread in the toaster only for the faint smell of burnt toast to fill your nostrils minutes later. You don’t have time to make another so you head out anyway. On your way out, speed walking thinking about how unprepared you are for this meeting, you clumsily trip over yourself causing just enough of your to-go cup of coffee to spill out making its way onto your white shirt.
In this unfortunate series of events, you’re inclined to believe you’re in a microcosm of Murphy’s law. Suffice to say this puts you in a bad mood. The glass is officially half empty. Your thought patterns reflect that by reiterating this incessant pessimism as you become convinced of some universal force out there hell-bent on making your day shitty.
You are now keenly aware of things happening to you so you can find the next occurrence that proves the existence of this force to your sadistic ego. Now life may continue operating as normal, but with this mindset, you are actively seeking that which upsets you.
Back to the story.
So you finally make it into the office. You beeline straight to your desk where you hope to get comfortable in your zone like you do every other day. Your coworker Bob passes by and compliments you on your latest deliverable. You then see him chuckling and conclude he must have been making fun of you. He’s always been a dickhead, you think to yourself. After wrapping up that bit of work you put off last night, you make your way to the team meeting. You suffer through it as you do every week and wrap it up giving your weekly run down. Before you have a chance to end things, your boss interrupts for a special announcement. He’s excited to notify the team of the next round of promotions. And for the cherry on top, it’s none other than that dickhead Bob. Because, of course, Murphy’s Law.
You can see how this pattern can begin to repeat itself. No matter what is actually happening in the external world, you play these mental gymnastics to twist and turn every situation into one that works against you. The notion that everything will continue going wrong becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. One that acts like a virus, infecting the mind with the expectation of suffering.
Living in Imaginationland
But what if I told you with absolute certainty that the virus isn’t real? There’s no force acting against you to create these disturbances. You are not a lone ranger in a fight against all that’s happening to you in the external world. It may be a tough pill to swallow but these occurrences are actually self-created.
Perception has become reality
Imagination becoming reality doesn’t only happen in South park
The very thought that you are trapped in this cycle is what actually perpetuates this manifestation of Murphy’s Law. The more you buy into it, the more it materializes in front of you.
Now you may be thinking that this is getting quite depressing and only leaves us knowing how easy it is to spiral into a depressing state of affairs but bear with me here. With this thought in mind comes liberation. Because if you can will negative occurrences into existence then what’s to stop you from doing the reverse?
Breaking the Cycle
What if you were to take an objectively negative situation like the above rough start to your morning and wholeheartedly recognize that it was out of your control, that no amount of dwelling will improve your life experience, and that behind the initial negative events lies an overwhelmingly positive outcome?
Rather than take what unfolded at face value — you had a bad breakfast and are coming into work late with a stain on your shirt, say you view it as an opportunity. A chance to strengthen that muscle called patience. You look at the exact state of affairs and realize none of it is the end of the world. You aren’t materially impacted by anything that happened so you make the conscious choice to not let it negatively impact your emotions. Instead, you opt to find the benefit from it.
That burnt toast meant your dog got a little extra breakfast, brightening the good boy’s day. The spilled coffee now gives you an excuse to do some long overdue shopping for new shirts. Bob's promotion? Well, maybe you could learn a thing or two from him. And if your performing on par then that must mean you're next-in-line for a promotion.
Now this is obviously a trivial example and the real world tends to be a bit more complex but the point remains. It’s possible to take any situation and use it to shine light on positive occurrences in your life. By using a somewhat maddening experience to prove to yourself that you won’t let events outside of your control serve as a detriment to your life, you can then carry on your day with a sense of accomplishment.
Since you no longer are anxiously awaiting the next string of events to solidify the existence of a coordinated attack by the universe to ruin your day, you have opened yourself up to accept all the wonderful things life has to offer. You’ll find a snowball effect begin to unfold where this new, positive perspective alters the course of your day.
The crazy part is nothing in the outside world has changed. That seemingly shitty day is identical regardless of your reaction. But this mindset shift has altered how it impacts you. And perception is reality. Therefore, the only thing stopping you is you. So if you refuse to accept that the world is conspiring against you and instead turn an unapologetically optimistic view towards life then everything that can go right will go right.