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We Interrupt This Program For a Message From the Universe

Gist: It’s common to misinterpret fear or confusion as a bad “sign from the universe.”


Just a few weeks ago, I returned from what’s become one of the greatest trips of my life. There were a lot of challenges and a number of things didn’t work out quite right, but I still look back on it as a great experience, and I’m glad I did it. In fact, I plan to do it again, and soon.

It’s becoming increasingly popular these days to “tune into the universe” to find out what you’re supposed to be doing with your life. The idea seems to be that life is supposed to be easy, and if you’re running into many problems with the path you’re on, then you need to “listen to the universe” and go do something else.

Personally, when life gets too easy for too long, I start to get bored. I need a challenge in my life, and challenges—by definition—are not easy. If we grow, learn, and improve by stepping outside our comfort zones, then we’ll inevitably run into circumstances where it feels like the whole universe is telling us to give up. And how we respond to those circumstances will determine if we get what we really want.

There’s certainly merit in being adaptable and knowing when to try a different course, but the problem I have with messages from the universe is that they downplay your own control over your life—don’t worry about what you really want to do, just ask the universe.

To be honest, I like to listen to the universe too, but only when it tells me good things. If something I’m working on turns out perfectly, then sure, “Thanks, Universe, for helping me out with that. You were right all along.”

When something’s hard and the universe seems to be telling me to stop, I politely ignore it and buckle down for the difficult road ahead. I don’t think it’s the universe’s job to tell me what to do. It can steer me in different directions, but I choose the course.

A Response to The Universe

If you’re in a spot where the universe seems to be telling you to give up, maybe what it’s really saying is to ask yourself a few important questions:

  • Why am I really doing this? Is there a deeper purpose to this? You don’t always have to know what it is, but without the hint of one, maybe it is time to move on.
  • How will I actually feel when I’m done? Are you doing this for yourself, or are you just trying to make someone else happy?
  • Is there another path to the same goal? You can change your course without changing the desired outcome. Have you looked at other possibilities?
  • What parts are saying “yes”? If the universe seems to be saying no, maybe it’s only a matter of perspective. If something’s going wrong, something else is usually going right. Try focusing your attention there.

These are the questions I ask myself when the world seems to be telling me “no.” They help me reframe the situation and get back to work on what’s really important to me.

How you respond to “messages from the universe” is, of course, entirely up to you though. And I’m curious to know what your strategy is.

How do you respond when the universe tells you something you don’t want to hear? Share your answer in the comments.


For more on how to be awesome and do your own thing, I recommend this article from Matt at No Meat Athlete and this one from Johnny B. Truant, Fonzie of the Internet.

Image by: morganglines

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What smart people are saying about this...

  1. Nice job, Tyler. The idea of the universe giving signs is pretty funny when we step away from it. I knew someone who lived in New Orleans and said that Hurricane Katrina was a sign they should move to California. A subtle sign, there, huh?

    To me, “signs” are really about learning and recognizing new ideas. They might SEEM to come from the universe but they’re really coming from us, as we grow and see our goals differently. And like you say, lots of times this is negative at first, so perseverance and creativity are key to getting past that. The questions you give us here are a great start on that new path–thanks!

  2. Great blog! Life is all a matter of perspective and a sign is a sign. We can interpret it as bad or good but if we choose to read it without making it one or the other we create an opportunity to explore and evaluate the situation further. I love your points they are bang on!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Nicole. I like the idea of a sign being just that. No “good” or “bad” label attached to it — just an opportunity to explore a little deeper.

  3. Hilarious picture, Tyler – absolutely love it.

    I’m a ‘Universe’ guy, but I also believe that we have to turn within and look inside ourselves to determine if we’re on the right track. How I feel when certain things are going on tends to influence my actions moving forward.

    I love your questions above. Perhaps another one that might be helpful is ‘How would it feel if I gave up on this particular pursuit?’ It’s possible that the answer to that question could be quite liberating, or it might even be the catalyst for doubling down on efforts to achieve it.

    Just some thoughts.

    • Brandon, I love that question.

      I’ve also heard a way to get clarity is to let a coin toss determine what you do. You learn a lot about where you’re at based on your reaction to the decision the coin makes for you.

  4. Hmm…this is so interesting because I listen to the Universe all the time but I’ve never heard it tell me to stop doing something. Maybe I blocked out those messages. ha ha.

    My rule when listening to the Universe is that it will never suggests anything that is fear based and would result in me shrinking and becoming small.

    That being said the Universe is always telling me to do things I don’t want to hear. Mostly because doing them scares the sh*t out of me. But here’s the thing. I am very aware these suggestions are coming from an expansive place that will help me grow as a person.

    I think one of the most important things you can know about yourself is when your choices are coming from fear or from trust.

    When we have clarity, which can come from questions like you suggested, it’s so much easier to trust.

  5. Hey Tyler,

    I am thinking that the Universe is telling us something here because the irony to this is that I just posted a little article on saying ‘yes’ more than ‘no’.

    I think for me, I respond by acknowledging it but then I challenge myself to see it differently because I know that the universe doesn’t really conspire against me, rather, it’s how I view it.

  6. Great post! It reminds me of the lyrics to the Madonna song, Broken. –

    ” ..Don’t you feel sorry for me. I’m right where the universe wants me to be. A lesson that I needed to learn, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t burn.. Don’t you feel sorry for me, I won’t change my story, don’t take all my glory.. No pain, no gain, don’t you feel sorry for me.. ”

    There’s something comforting in believing that everything happens for a reason, mainly that a lesson is to be learned from strife and failure. Failures are nothing but life-lessons and with every failure (and because of), you’re just that much closer to success.

  7. Those questions are key, Tyler. I think you hit the nail on the head there. Also, I’m stealing this picture!

  8. Haha – Usually when the universe is telling me something I don’t want to hear it’s that I’m consciously ignoring something that’s wrong and trying to fool myself, versus the universe sending me a bad sign.

    So personally, I take it as a wakeup call that there’s probably something I’m not addressing or adjusting for that I need to put some thought into.

  9. Usually if the universe tells me something I dont want to hear, i’ll decide if I should listen to it. One of the ways I do that is try and figure out the consequences of me ignoring it, and if I’ll ever get a shot at whatever i’m doing again.

    • There are definitely instances where giving up *is* the right thing to do. If you really don’t care about the consequences, then by all means, listen up! Otherwise, probably best to go forward.

      • Agreed. This weekend I was in one of those situations. After a grueling morning, I was around 800ft below the summit of Maroon Peak (CO) and was drained. Weather looked to be coming in, and I didnt want to get caught on the peak in the storm. As much as I didnt want to, I turned back. The mountain isnt going anywhere, and I’ll have another crack at it sometime soon.

  10. That’s an interesting idea that people only start “listening to the universe” when things aren’t looking too good. I like your idea of listening when everything’s awesome and feeling assured that you’re on the right path.

    “Universe” talk sounds a little out there to me. I think it’s better to focus on the ways we DO have control over our lives and circumstance.

  11. You’ll probably disagree with me on this one, but I’ll say it anyway. Woo woo alert because I’m a professional intuitive. I wouldn’t choose to be cavalier about the “universe.” Whether you think so or not, you do indeed have a spiritual team working with you. The reason why it (or the “universe”) will NEVER tell you what to do is because you have free will. You direct your life and your course. However if you actually want a little help or guidance, it’s available. Sometimes the hard road is the way that you learn your lessons, and sometimes it is to your benefit to persevere. When you get message after message (or sign after sign) telling you “don’t go there” it might be wise to consider it – because when we don’t learn our lessons they keep on arriving via another avenue – and they tend to get harder and harder each time until we get it.

  12. A very short comment, but I just wanted to say: loved this post. Listening to the universe, our gut or whatever else, when developed is a powerful tool to making decisions- but what’s great is, like you said, we have the chance to do with it what we will!

  13. Thanks for the thought provoking post Tyler.

    Personally I do listen to the Universe (God, he, she, it, the still small voice within…..whatever you want to call it). I am a part of it, and it a part of me. I agree that when things are going well it’s easy to say “Cheers Universe” however that’s not so easy when things are not going so well. Having said that how often to we find that those very times that appeared so hard were actually blessings in disguise (with hindsight)?

    I believe that the Universe is constantly challenging us – so when it appears that all and everything is against us – it’s actually saying “go on, you can do it, persevere”.

    After all, a life without challenges would be pretty dull.


  14. I just love a good philosophical post :)

    If I’m feeling “something I don’t want to hear,” I ask myself, who’s doing the hearing? Resistance, for me, is often my ego saying “that’s scary. It’s too hard. Too risky. You’d better be careful.” And in my experience, buckling down on it only makes the quagmire worse. Only when I ease up and stop trying so hard to figure it out, can I find some relief and direction. When I get out of the way, “The Universe” helps me see things so much more clearly.

    Interesting how there are as many ideas of “The Universe” as there are people on the planet. 😉

  15. Like you, I only really like to listen to the universe when it’s telling me something good, like showing me that I’m on the right track. If everything keeps going wrong, I usually just try to keep my head up as much as possible… And if that doesn’t work, THEN I maybe start questioning the way I’m doing things and what I could do differently to achieve better results.


  16. I just made a comment in the Adventures of Manifesting group on FB the other day about the universe. It’s a `Woo woo’ group to be fair but I like that as it’s so out of my normal day to day reading and interactions with entrepreneurs and biz people. So I like it. But I did comment on one post that just seemed like all you had to do was ask the Universe and all would be granted. At the end of the day the Universe is a bunch of planets in orbit, one of which is ours and while I don’t deny there’s a lot of power out there that guides us and puts us on the right path when we start asking the right questions, you don’t hear people saying `What would earth ask me to do?’

    However I do like Julie’s explanation and point of view too. And lately I’ve been putting out a lot of what I want in life and the universe, and the fortune cookie have been answering big time!


  17. That’s a good one, Tyler. It is common occurrence to find problems between where we are in life, and where we want to go. I believe that is part of nature’s ‘Grand Plan’. How are we going to experience higher expressions of ourselves if there are no problems to overcome? I believe the Universe is always saying “YES” to expressing our Authentic Self. Independent inquiry and coming to know thyself is the only way to determine whether these “signs” are eliciting our highest expression, or whether we are listening to the Ego that is only interested in keeping us limited.

  18. I don’t know what the “universe” is trying to say to me but if it is speaking to me, all it’s telling me is what a loser it thinks I am. *LOL*…seriously, no job for three years, no family, no home, seriously? I have no idea what the universe wants me to do, so I’m not “listening” anymore!

  19. well… I am part of the universe and I give out a lot, sometimes when I am in need of help I ask the universe, after all it is interactive out there. Yes it does give me cascades of clear messages, but I do not tune in easily! However I learnt recently after a big mis-message I learnt that I was given messages not to do what I did since then I learnt one lesson, listen to yourself and just trust your gut feelings.
    COnflict often rise when your mind (which is an accumulative experience and knowledge) guided by your subconscious ( through previous experiences that you might not even remember) tells you to do one thing and your gut (soul connected to the free knowledge out there as fate and or destiny) tells you another…. usually one would listen to the mind because it is evidence based knowledge, and deluded by the sub conscious…which may trap some people in certain patterns … and ignore the non evidence based knowledge that gut feelings get through intangible channels with the universe and its myriad of resources.
    I learnt, too late though, but it is a continuous process.
    Try meditation to get answers to your questions, sometimes you might not like the asnwers, but they are the true ones
    one last thing: if you have a wish, manifest it through the universe and get your mind and your subconscious out of it and do not listen to logic when you wish… just go for what you really want and tell that to the universe
    don’t worry right or wrong , because you are still judging by physical man made laws of events that do not follow or submit to man made or physical or biological or even logical laws…
    just make the wish and stand by it and keep it in your soul… it will happen

Founded with love by Tyler Tervooren

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