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God’s Nudges: The Connection Between Fate and Free Will
Understanding the connection between fate and free will by noticing the people and events that shaped your life.
Do you ever wonder about fate versus free will? It’s a question that’s haunted me my entire life. How much free will do we really have? And how much of our lives are determined by fate—destiny? The story you’re about to read will share some insight I’ve gained regarding that question.
Before you read this story, I’ll admit I’ve come to believe in guides. By this, I mean some spiritual guiding force that nudges us toward the life we, as souls, choose to experience. You might call this force a guardian angel or even God. I think this force encourages us in multiple ways, including through our intuition (gut feeling), coincidence (serendipity), and messengers, which I’ve come to believe can be either humans or animals.
If you believe in a guiding force that nudges us, the question that follows is: What’s the purpose of these nudges? The answer isn’t that we’re ruled by free will or fate; instead, it’s somewhere in the middle. What makes more sense to me is that our souls choose a plan for our lives, but it’s our guiding force that nudges us toward that plan. Yet because we have free will, we can choose whether to be influenced by these nudges or to ignore them altogether.
In my life, I believe I’ve been nudged toward being an investigator since early childhood. First, a private investigator, then an investigator of life after death. Here’s how that played out in my early life.
As a kid, I was obsessed with a series of books about Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective. It was a childhood obsession to the point where I dressed up like Encyclopedia Brown on Halloween. I would read those books repeatedly without ever tiring of them and try to duplicate some of his cases, like The Case of the Champion Egg Spinner.
Later, moving from boyhood into young adulthood, I watched every TV show about private detectives that aired. There were a lot of them in the 1970s and 80s: Mannix, Magnum P.I., The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Starsky & Hutch, Cannon, Remington Steele, Simon & Simon, Spencer: For Hire, Matlock, Matt Houston, Moonlighting, and the list goes on and on. Between this and my Encyclopedia Brown obsession, I guess it’s unsurprising that I became a private investigator as an adult. How I got there, however, is much more interesting. It came in the form of four divine nudges.
As spiritual beings having a human experience, we’re like heat-seeking missiles searching for a pre-planned target, which some might call our life purpose. The challenge is that our conscious minds are entirely unaware of this target. We’d have no idea how to locate it even if we knew what it was.
For this reason, our higher self—what I call our soul—attempts to guide our direction toward that target (our purpose). Sometimes it’s more like a shove, but in most cases, it’s a mere tap on the shoulder, which I like to call a nudge. Interestingly, one tiny nudge from your higher self can send you reeling in a trajectory that forever changes the course of your life. More often, however, it’s an ongoing collection of tiny nudges that leads us to our intended purpose.
I’m fascinated with how a simple word, suggestion, or gesture can alter the direction of one’s life. It’s easier to spot these nudges when looking at your life in hindsight. It’s also a fun practice to look back to see who or what influenced you to become the person you are today. This is what I hope you’ll do after reading this article.
Below is an example from my own life to get you thinking. The nudges that led me to become a private investigator started the day my high school guidance counselor called me into his office.
I was a senior in high school walking down the main hallway when the vice principal, Mr. Trembley, who also served as a school counselor, pulled me aside and asked me to follow him to his office. Once I was seated in front of his desk, he asked me, “What plans do you have for college?”
“Ah, none,” I told him, just being honest.
“Look, Bob, you’re a good student. You get good grades. You’ve been president of your class for four years. You’re a perfect candidate for college. Have you applied for any scholarships?”
I squirmed in my chair out of embarrassment. “Mr. Trembley, I wouldn’t know the first place to begin applying for a scholarship.”
The truth was that I wasn’t procrastinating applying to colleges. It simply never occurred to me to go. Neither of my parents attended college, so I’m sure it never occurred to them either. Also, my parents couldn’t afford it, so there was that.
Without my parents pushing me to go, and since no other adults broached the subject, I unconsciously assumed I’d continue the odd job and landscaping business I’d created. Even in high school, this business was growing every year. Why would I want to mess that up by going to college?
Mr. Trembley quickly understood that I had no role model influencing me toward higher education. He took a new approach and asked, “If you did go to college, what would you like to major in?”
“Again, I don’t even know what majors exist. That’s never been explained to me.”
Mr. Trembley opened a large book. “Let’s see. Here’s a list of majors. Tell me if any of these interest you. Hmm, accounting, communications, English... you’re good at that... psychology, business management, hotel management, criminology...”
“Wait, what’s that?”
“Criminology? It’s about criminal justice, law enforcement, and corrections; you know, learning how to investigate crimes or initiate prison reform.”
“That sounds interesting, I guess.”
“Okay, let’s see, Northeastern University in Boston offers a degree in criminology. Um, and so does Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. Northeastern would be in the city and probably have more students in each class. Saint Anselm would be in the country and it says the classes would be about the same size as we have here at Wachusett.”
“Anselm. You can call it Saint A’s.”
“Saint A’s sounds pretty good, even if I don’t know how to pronounce it.”
Trembley chuckled. “You know, Mr. Reynolds graduated from there. Do you know him?”
“Yeah, I’ve been in two of his English classes. We get along great.”
“Well, I’d bet he’d be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. I’ll tell you what, I’ll talk to him and see how he feels about it.”
That was it. Mr. Reynolds was happy to write me a letter of recommendation, and I applied to Saint Anselm College. It was the only school to which I applied. Long story short, I got accepted. Wouldn’t it have been a weird story if I didn’t? Ultimately, Mr. Trembley pulling me out of the hallway that day became the nudge I needed to go to college for a degree in criminology.
In my final year at Saint Anselm College, I had a course on conducting investigations. In this course, the professor was a real-life Columbo. Since I don’t recall his name, I’ll call him Professor Columbo. He taught us how to conduct surveillance so we weren’t noticed while tailing someone, how to investigate a crime scene, how to interview a witness, and even taught us about autopsies. Most important to this story was that this retired police detective-turned-professor encouraged me to become a private investigator after graduation. In fact, Professor Columbo brought it up repeatedly during the semester.
I wasn’t interested in being a private eye at first because I dreamed of working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), or The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms (ATF). Nonetheless, after graduation, these agencies interviewed me, and they all said the same thing: Get some experience as a police officer first and then come back to see us.
I wasn’t interested in being a police officer. I’m not sure why because I admire what police do and recognize the courage and skill required to protect and serve the public as they do. But that was how I felt in my early twenties, so I started a private investigation agency in New Hampshire after graduation.
I often think of us as pinballs, and these nudges from other people are like pinball paddles sending us in destiny-filling directions. Of course, our free will holds power in our choices, so what bells we strike after being nudged by a paddle is entirely up to us. Professor Columbo was the paddle that nudged me toward becoming a private eye, and I chose to follow that trajectory.
Although I became a licensed private eye in New Hampshire, I had yet to learn how to drum up business. Nobody wanted to hire an investigator right out of college. A former professor from St. A’s, also an attorney, hired me. Thanks to some innovation and beginner’s luck, I completed the investigation successfully. Yet when I turned in the invoice for my work, he didn’t pay me and stopped taking my calls. Basically, I got screwed on my first investigation by my own professor. Go figure. Nonetheless, the event opened my mind up for the next nudge.
About a week later, an old high school friend named Mark Ryan told his new stepfather that I was entering the field of private investigations. Mark’s mother had just remarried this lovely man named George Wallace, a lawyer. Attorney Wallace told Mark, “Tell your friend, Bob, I’d be happy to introduce him to the private investigator I’ve been using for years.”
Given my struggles getting my own agency going, I accepted the offer and met with Attorney Wallace’s private eye, Karl Chapin. I hoped he might have some advice for me. Karl was a war hero who had lost his right hand in Vietnam. From what I recall, an enemy grenade landed near him, so he picked it up and tossed it away from his comrade soldiers. Karl lost his hand but saved the lives of several men.
Karl and I instantly hit it off. I spent the day with him, and he taught me several things I didn’t know. Before I went home that day, Karl offered me a job where he could teach me the ins and outs of being a private investigator.
Karl investigated cases for some of the most prestigious law firms in Boston. Luckily for me, he was weeks, even months, behind on his investigations. Karl had gotten into repossessing cars for banks, what was known at the time as a “repo man” due to a movie by that title. It was a new career for Karl and one he favored over the investigations. Consequently, he’d been procrastinating his P.I. cases, so I showed up in Karl’s life at the perfect time (and he in mine).
Despite my lack of experience, I had a natural talent for investigations. These innate instincts and Karl’s guidance allowed me to prove myself as a top-notch detective to the prestigious attorneys who gave him cases. I suspect these lawyers were only willing to give me a chance because Karl had procrastinated them for so long. They were just happy the cases were finally being investigated.
After a few years, Karl handed the business over to me. I’d learned all I could learn from him, and the lawyers were now calling me directly when they had new cases, so it was a natural progression that our mentorship ended. The unfortunate consequence was that Karl and I slowly lost touch. It was an expected conclusion to our relationship, given that he was about fifteen years older than me, but grieving occurs when your mentor fades from your life.
These are the nudges that led me to become a private investigator.
First nudge: My vice principal steered me toward a criminology degree.
Second nudge: My college professor encouraged me to become a private investigator.
Third nudge: My friend, Mark, told his new stepfather I had started an investigation agency in New Hampshire, and Attorney Wallace introduced me to his P.I., Karl.
Fourth nudge: Karl offered to hire and mentor me to work on his investigations in Massachusetts.
That’s five people and four nudges over several years that led to my becoming an investigator.
This is how fate and free will work together. Assuming it was my soul’s plan that I become an investigator (all signs indicate this to be the case), my spirit guides nudged me toward that career utilizing these five people. However, I was free to follow or ignore those nudges. In these cases, I let them move me forward.
If you’re subscribed to Bob Olson Connect, you probably know the nudges that moved me from private investigator to afterlife investigator. If not, I told that story in my article, The Private Investigator Who Became an Afterlife Investigator. Now I encourage you to look in hindsight at your own nudges in life. It’s truly fascinating to see how they fit together and moved you toward the person you are today. It’s not typically a straight line. Most people’s movements appear more like a zigzag. I love to hear your story in the comment section.
Thanks for reading. I hope you’re enjoying your summer. Happy Friday!
Bob Olson is the host of Afterlife TV, author of two books, Answers About The Afterlife and The Magic Mala, and creator of the directory of psychics and mediums, BestPsychicDirectory.com. His newest venture is Bob Olson Connect, where you can read Bob’s articles before they become books.
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